Read any good surveys lately? You should. Here's a new one from the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, a random survey of 1000 adults asking what five rights are contained in the First Amendment.

As a comparative guideline, the survey also asked respondents to name the five members of the Simpson family, match five companies with their advertising slogans, and name the three judges on American Idol.

The survey shows that while most Americans are familiar with their First Amendment rights, they show a shocking ignorance of the Simpson family components. Only about one in four (28%) were able to name more than one Simpson (most common responses - Bart and Homer), contrasted to the fifty-four (50) percent who were able to identify two or more provisions of the first amendment (most common responses - freedom of religion and freedom to have pets).

Around 20% (twenty percent) of respondents were able to name all five rights, but a shocking and statistically insignificant two responders (2%) could name all five Simpsons. Only four percent (.04) was able to identify Boomhauer as a family member.

Results for the other cultural touchpoints were equally disturbing. Although a significant portion of respondents could somewhat describe two of the American Idol hosts ('the chick' and 'the mean guy'), less than 10% could actually name them. Interestingly, zero percent (0.00%) were able to name Randy Jackson.

As for the advertising slogans, researcher Dave Anderson has this to say. "Oy vey, forget about it. This study will shake up the industry. It proves that as enjoyable as commercial advertising is, it really doesn't make much of an impact on anyone. The few feeble minds it does manage to reach are so dim that they probably don't have any expendable capital anyway."

Columbia University law professor Michael Dorf called the results distressing. "It's just not that big a deal to know that freedom of the press, speech, religion and those other two are protected by the First Amendment," he says, shaking his head in obvious disgust.

"It's not like that sort of thing is going to come up in your everyday life, or affect you in any significant way. Ignorance of the nation's cultural icons and verbal shorthand, however, destroys the collective language that unites us as a country, and threatens to turn this juke joint into a Tower of Babel. Let's face it. If I say 'think outside the box' and you don't know that I'm talking about Taco Bell, you probably aren't going to get to eat."


2006, Mark Hoback