How much do Americans know about Ukraine?

by on April 7, 2014 at 6:18 pm in Current Affairs, Education, History, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

…the median respondent was about 1,800 miles off — roughly the distance from Chicago to Los Angeles — locating Ukraine somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north.

That is from Monkey Cage, there is more here.  The guesses look like this:


For points I thank Kevin Lewis and Samir Varma.

1 Freethinking Jeremy April 7, 2014 at 6:25 pm

You could probably get the same results with the Iraq war as well.

2 Peter April 7, 2014 at 6:28 pm

People who think it’s in the central United States are understandably concerned.

3 Freethinking Jeremy April 7, 2014 at 6:31 pm

Awesome comment, Peter. You just made my day.

4 coketown April 7, 2014 at 6:47 pm

A few years back, my brother was quite alarmed when he read that Russia had invaded Georgia.

5 Peter April 7, 2014 at 6:59 pm

As he should be! That’s only 150 miles off the coast of North Carolina!

6 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I’m alarmed when I read in the newspapers today that “Russia invaded Georgia,” since the preponderance of evidence is that US-backed Georgia started the 2008 war by sending 10,000 troops and 72 tanks over the international line of control.

When this kind of misleading spin becomes conventional wisdom, I worry about what other reckless mischief Washington will bumble into next. Encouraging a tank … war … with … Russia was awfully stupid, but the facts have been shoved down the memory hole, so who can remember what actually happened.

7 msgkings April 8, 2014 at 1:27 am


Man you loves you some Russia, Steveski

8 Steve Sailer April 8, 2014 at 6:57 am

“A European Union investigation concluded that Georgia had started the war, but noted that this was a “not proportionate” response to pre-war South Ossetian attacks.”

9 Steve Sailer April 8, 2014 at 8:01 am

From the New York Times:

Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question


Published: November 6, 2008

TBILISI, Georgia — Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West. But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion.

President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia has characterized the attack as a precise and defensive act. But according to observations of the monitors, documented Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were falling throughout the city at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between explosions, and within the first hour of the bombardment at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area. The monitors have also said they were unable to verify that ethnic Georgian villages were under heavy bombardment that evening, calling to question one of Mr. Saakashvili’s main justifications for the attack.

… The monitors were members of an international team working under the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O.S.C.E. A multilateral organization with 56 member states, the group has monitored the conflict since a previous cease-fire agreement in the 1990s.

The observations by the monitors, including a Finnish major, a Belarussian airborne captain and a Polish civilian, have been the subject of two confidential briefings to diplomats in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, one in August and the other in October. Summaries were shared with The New York Times by people in attendance at both.

Details were then confirmed by three Western diplomats and a Russian, and were not disputed by the O.S.C.E.’s mission in Tbilisi, which was provided with a written summary of the observations.

… The brief war was a disaster for Georgia. The attack backfired.

10 Jan April 8, 2014 at 11:15 am

“Provokatsiya” is a damn good excuse to get in there with some big guns.

However, the implication that the US actively encouraged the Georgians to do this is dead wrong. We supported the country and its military generally, but not in provoking the Russians to invade.

11 Steve Sailer April 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm

How do we know that elements within the U.S. government weren’t aware of the upcoming Georgian invasion of South Ossetia that began late on August 7, 2008?

I was shocked to recently discover that the U.S. had 1,000 American troops in Georgia taking place in military exercises with Georgian troops from July 15-30, 2008:

That’s a not unusual time table for starting a war: hold military exercises for a couple of weeks as a cover for mobilization, then invade about a week later. (That’s why everybody worries when Russia hold military exercises near Ukraine.)

Candidate John McCain’s top foreign policy aide Randy Scheunemann was on Georgia’s payroll. The Georgian government’s invasion strategy only made sense if they assumed the U.S. would bully Russia into not fighting back.

The subject of American involvement in starting the war needs clarification but the U.S. media would prefer to pass on self-serving disinformation implying that Russia started the war.

12 Jan April 8, 2014 at 8:14 pm

But why would we have wanted Georgia to provoke Russia into attacking them? We certainly weren’t ready to jump in and help — the whole thing just made US and one of our allies look bad.

13 athEIst April 8, 2014 at 9:47 am

Yeah, Hitler did it too, and with more than 72 tanks(2700 versus 3600 Soviet). Didn’t work out for him either. Both countries start with a GE and 73 years is just a twinkle in the scheme of things. It will fit in the memory hole easily.

14 Chip April 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Politicians should be asked these basic knowledge questions at news conferences. Where is Ukraine? What share of the 1% are still the 1% in five years? How much interest will the US pay on its debt if rates hit 5%? Which climate model had been accurate enough for you to remain confident in AGW?

Too often politicians skirt basic knowledge with obfuscation. Let’s see what they really know.

15 Jan April 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Mood-affiliated questions.

16 Chip April 8, 2014 at 1:10 am

Debt, inequality and climate change aren’t the main issues of the day?

Could you answer even one of them?

17 Jan April 8, 2014 at 9:21 am

With the exception of Ukraine, these are just your top issues framed as questions to advance a conservative agenda. I can questions on the exact same topics with answers that support a liberal agenda.

What are current real interest rates? Is the share of the income earned by the top 1% rising or shrinking over the last 15 years–is it higher or lower than 1927? Which climate models have been able to predict recent global warming without taking rising CO2 levels into account?

18 Floccina April 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I would like to see pols asked both sets of questions.

19 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Would Russians answer this question more accurately? Probably.

But it’s still absolutely crucial that all of Ukraine be in the American sphere of influence and not have some kind of un-American federal system in Ukraine. Think of poor Victoria Nuland’s career!

20 Rahul April 8, 2014 at 12:56 am

Thank goodness at least the study revealed both parties as equally stupid. Otherwise, the same inane partisan superiority debate again.

Democrats (14 percent correct) and Republicans (15 percent correct).

Interestingly, self-identified independents seem twice as smart as respondents from both parties.

21 Brandon April 9, 2014 at 10:07 am


22 Mike Urbancic April 7, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I can’t help but have the nagging feeling that a portion of the ridiculously bad guesses are simply a reflection of the fact that some of the respondents really don’t care about the study being done and have no incentive whatsoever to put in any effort to be accurate in the map task.

I don’t have a good sense for whether or not this kind of apathy would correlate with other things the survey purports to measure, much less any causalities that may or may not underlie such correlations. The designers of the study may have shared such concerns, but they aren’t mentioned in the post on The Monkey Cage.

23 Urso April 7, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Agreed; I don’t see how anyone who does not suffer from a legitimate mental disability could possible put the Ukraine in Nebraska, or South Florida. Much more likely they simply didn’t care enough to give an honest answer.

Anyway this post has nothing to do with the Ukraine. It, and all the similar “look how many Americans got __ wrong!” stories you see, exists primarily to reassure the reader of how very smart he or she is.

24 Thor April 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Exit, voice, loyalty, right?

Putting the Ukraine in Florida or Nebraska is “exit.” I.e., not playing the game.

25 joan April 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Maybe they could not locate the US on the map.

26 CD April 7, 2014 at 11:33 pm

You’re assuming they know that Florida is Florida, on the map. A lot of folks have no strong idea what the world map is of.

27 Komori April 8, 2014 at 10:42 am

My parents live in Colorado. I live in Texas. Once, on a visit here, they used a traveler’s check to pay for something in the store. The cashier, who hadn’t seen one before, wanted to know what country they were from.

Mom answered, “Colorado.”

The cashier then asked, “Yes, but what country?”

It can be hard to underestimate the ignorance of the average American.

28 Beth April 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm

HAH! Isn’t that just spectacular?! That’s a “here’s your sign” moment for sure.

29 Dan Haggins April 10, 2014 at 1:21 am

You may find this hard to believe but some nations have cities and even states/ provinces with the same names as our cities and states. Added to that fact is the supreme weirdness of using travellers checks in your home country and I start to wonder if that employee doesn’t laughingly tell his friends about the time some old folks making exotic multiple nation crossing grand tour from colorodo to Texas used travellers checks to buy a cowboy hat or whatever.

One time I was wearing this wizards cape around on Halloween and some idiot asked me what kind of costume I was wearing. Costume I sneered I wear this cape for attention not candy. Now can you break this $100 travellers check.

30 efram April 7, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Why is it so important to memorize the geographical location of Ukraine?

It is not important at all to the lives of most people on earth. Apathy is good because human time and resources are very scarce relative to nature.

Of the multi-Gazillion factoids one might commit to instant memory, how does one choose the relatively few that can be readily maintained in human memory long term?

Why would anyone be surprised that the masses have no interest in Ukraine? The tsk-tsks reveal more about elitist ego.

(and there’s always Google for answers)

31 Alan April 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

I have a vague intuition that you were not previously entirely certain of the precise location of Ukraine.

32 joan April 8, 2014 at 5:52 am

I would guess that fewer that 1% could locate Ukraine on a map unless they looked it up since the crisis erupted, since it was not a country when we were is school. That made knowing its location was a good measure of how closely people were following the news.

33 John Schilling April 8, 2014 at 10:45 am

I would guess that more than 50% of the population falls into at least one of the two following categores:

A. People who went to high school during or after the establisment of Ukraine as an independent nation

B. People who played at least a few games of “Risk” in childhood or adolescence.

So as far as American national security is concerned, Ukraine is mostly a non-issue, but I think we’ll be in serious trouble if the Russians ever establish dominance over Kamchatka. And I am baffled that so many Americans are so geographically illiterate as to not understand this 🙂

34 Rob42 April 8, 2014 at 11:25 am

And given how “the Ukraine” was displayed on the Risk board, it really confuses things

35 Brandon April 9, 2014 at 10:09 am

Did none of you play Risk growing up?

36 Jan April 7, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Because geography itself explains so much.

37 Alan April 7, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Yes. It staggers me that some people propose policies about country X when they have no idea where country X is.

38 Thor April 7, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Not sure I agree. Most people I know cannot find Latvia on a map, but they know that the Russians have no business re-absorbing the Baltic states into their empire.

39 CD April 7, 2014 at 11:38 pm

But you’re evading the point, no? People are advocating a step that would put a whole lot of lives at risk, without knowing the kinds of basic facts that would let them begin to think the step through.

40 Ryan April 8, 2014 at 3:52 am

It’s just very basic information, that’s hard not to absorb (since you live on earth), and helps you understand more about the world.

You don’t strictly need to know a lot of the stuff in the news, like what a Nobel prize is or where Samsung is based. Living in such ignorance is not really living though.

41 coketown April 7, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Quite right. The implied assertion is: “Stupid people favor intervention.” I think the right conclusion to draw is: “Pacifists really enjoy maps.”

It tells us nothing of the merits or wisdom of a Ukrainian intervention. I’m sure the same people who can identify Ukraine on a map can also list the noble gases by atomic number; it does not mean I would trust to be anywhere near them as they attempt to weld things.

42 byomtov April 7, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Surely the location of a country has something to do with the wisdom of military intervention.

There are practical questions of logistics and so on, as well as geopolitical and other issues.

43 derek April 7, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Indeed, that is why Obama managed to win the election in 2008 by promising to intensify a war in a country surrounded by hostile or uncooperative nations.

And then managed to lose to a bunch of inbred goatherders.

Hands up anyone here who voted for that guy. This was not some hypothetical survey designed to laugh at people.

44 Steve Sailer April 8, 2014 at 12:49 am

Uh, who was Obama running against in 2008?

45 Brandon April 9, 2014 at 10:10 am

I don’t think Obama’s stance on Afghanistan was what carried him in the 2008 elections. There was some other stuff going on at the time.

46 coketown April 7, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Perhaps. But, more accurately, no.

In the popular mind, the question of military intervention is entirely moral; it’s a moral calculation. I recall precious few liberals arguing against the war in Afghanistan at all–even fewer on the grounds that it’s a tactical nightmare. The moral climate in November, 2001 was boiling, and liberals were very accommodating to the rise in temperature. Those dissenting did so on moral grounds.

Your conclusion takes the implied argument of the original post to extremes. You not only think people should be proficient in cartography, but that they should use this knowledge to be ace war-gamers–considering tactical, geo-political, economic, and diplomatic consequences of action or inaction. Such people who can consider all dimensions of war, and do so competently, are exceedingly rare–if not extinct. To expect this of the average citizens as a condition of voicing an opinion–any opinion–on intervention is prohibitive. It insists that nobody should have an opinion at all!

47 coketown April 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm

(This was posted in response to Steve Sailer below. Out of this context, I sound like Dostoevsky obliterating the quietness of a room with a religious rant.)

48 Steve Sailer April 8, 2014 at 12:56 am

Generally speaking, I’m more trusting of, say, Henry Kissinger’s viewpoint on Ukraine — Finlandize Ukraine so it’s not a military threat to Russia because it would stupid to have war over it — than I am of, say, Masha Gessen’s — “Bombing Moscow does not seem to be an option,” so overthrow the Kremlin with American-paid agitators.

But there sure seems to be a lot of demand in the American press for Ms. Gessen’s opinions on the subject.

49 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 10:55 pm

“The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.”

The more Americans are familiar with the actual geography, the more they can empathize with Russia’s desire to have a buffer state on its front doorstep. The U.S. has the Monroe Doctrine that insists upon a buffer hemisphere.

Russia’s desire for some sort of buffer state is not fair to the Ukrainians, but then the Monroe Doctrine hasn’t been all that fair to Latin Americans looking for outside help in overthrowing their American-backed corrupt and brutal governments.

50 collin April 8, 2014 at 9:16 am

Could there be an age self-selction bias here? Anybody who went to High School before 1989 (grad. 1988) took world history before the fall of the Berlin Wall and all these nations were created. Younger people took world history after the fall of the Berlin Wall so they studied maps with Ukraine on it.

And older people tend to be more pro-war than younger people.

51 Tom Davies April 8, 2014 at 9:33 am

Come on! I know where Ukraine is and I know that you need an inert gas to prevent oxidation when welding. (consults periodic table) I choose Radon!

52 Steven Kopits April 7, 2014 at 9:11 pm

So, to determine the location of Ukraine, “we then created a distance metric by comparing the coordinates they provided with the actual location of Ukraine on the map,” say the authors.

They asked respondents to provide the coordinates of Ukraine?

53 GiT April 7, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Or they asked them to make a point on a map and then calculated the coordinates…

54 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 11:03 pm

“We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map,”

That sounds about right to me.

Women are particularly uninterested in maps. I can recall serving on a committee in 1995 charged with putting the corporation’s first website online. One purpose was to tell visitors how to get to the headquarters building. The men on the committee suggested a map, while the women suggested recipe-like suggested verbal directions. One woman said, “Nobody really ever looks at maps. They just pretend to be able to understand them.”

55 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

“Men tended to do better than women, with 20 percent of men correctly identifying Ukraine and 13 percent of women.”

56 Rahul April 8, 2014 at 12:50 am

Contrary to Sailerian stereotypes, the conclusion of a rigorous 1999 map-reading ability study: “Tests of map-derived knowledge revealed no clear differences between the sexes.”

“Sex-Related Differences and Similarities in Geographic and Environmental Spatial Abilities.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers Volume 89, Issue 3, 1999

The test battery included……. map-learning tests; tests of extant geographic knowledge at local, regional, national, and international scales; tests of object-location memory……..

57 P April 8, 2014 at 3:38 am

Rigorous LOL. The sample was 43 females and 36 males who had “earlier responded to a mail survey about their spatial activities and experiences”, and whose socioeconomic status was “quite high.” The sexes were similar in income and education levels, and “had nearly equal amounts of self-reported contact with landmarks, familiarity with the campus, and knowledge of world cities.” Even in this self-selected, highly non-representative sample, males beat females on most tasks, although because of the tiny sample size the differences were usually not significant.

58 Steve Sailer April 8, 2014 at 7:02 am

It would be interesting to make up a list of stereotypes that turn out not to be true in some sense. It would be pretty short. One stereotype from the 1970s that has faded because it didn’t seem to be true, but was widely believed at the time by cops and emergency room nurses was: “the crazies come out during the full moon.” Several studies were done and couldn’t find a full moon effect on violent behavior, and now you don’t hear about it much anymore.

But that’s closer to the exception that proves (i.e., supports) the rule (i.e., tendency) that stereotypes are statistically true.

59 chuck martel April 8, 2014 at 7:49 am

The “crazies” may not be more apparent during a full moon but if you’ve spent a winter in a snow-covered remote area you’ll realize that animal activity in general great increases during the full and new moons.

60 Jim April 8, 2014 at 9:04 am

Steve – A Columbia sociologist by the name of Goldberg made many years ago an extensive study of stereotypes comparing them to the empirical evidence. He concluded that virtually all stereotypes are supported by the empirical evidence.

61 Anthony April 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm

There was a stereotype, when I was younger, that Mexicans were lazy.

62 Rahul April 9, 2014 at 5:02 am

What about the Irish being stupid?

63 Jay April 8, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Agreed, if the survey allowed a small monetary prize for guessing correctly it would eliminate the silly guesses like south Florida and I’m sure we’d see different results.

64 Nick_L April 7, 2014 at 7:14 pm

I’m curious about the number of people who a) think the Ukraine is located on an ocean and b) think its worth sending US forces in. Perhaps they have a cunning plan..

65 David Wright April 7, 2014 at 7:47 pm

It looks like a fair number of people put Ukraine in the Black Sea. If this is the map they showed people, that’s a pretty easy mistake to make, even for someone who does know pretty well where Ukraine is, because the map fails to clearly distinguish between land and water.

66 Steko April 7, 2014 at 7:18 pm

“somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north.”

The pedant in me wants to note that what’s left of the Ukraine is actually in this area.

67 Marie April 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

+ for the comment and + for the “what’s left of”.

68 Just an Australian April 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Is one of those dots on Wasila?

69 li April 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Yeah, how disappointing. I just talked to two guys who thought Athens was in the US! One thought it was in Georgia, the other in Ohio! As if Georgia itself is in the USA. Wow.

70 Ken Rhodes April 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm

OTOH, Ohio remains firmly in the USA. In a sense, those Ohioans are unlucky. They can’t threaten to secede–they’re surrounded.

71 JWatts April 7, 2014 at 8:58 pm

I’m going with Athens being in Tennessesse and the Parthenon being in Nashville.

72 Stephen April 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Well… there is an Athens in Georgia.

73 coketown April 7, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Score one for the wisdom of crowds. Now average together their answers on whether we should invade and we’ll have ourselves a foreign policy.

74 anon April 7, 2014 at 8:04 pm
75 Anthony April 8, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Wisdom of crowds – the participants in the experiment will have all sorts of ideas about human nature, the motives of power, etc., etc., while the CIA mostly recruits analysts from the same set of schools which teach the same curriculum, and train them in their own methods. It’s a monoculture, and while it may be close to right, getting a large group of people whose biases about how other people will act all counteract each other will produce better results.

76 dan in philly April 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Democracy in action. In order to form an informed opinion, you should be able to get pretty close to the actual area even on an uncompress map. And yet the uninformed vote counts just as much as an informed one.
Similar findings can be found for many topics. The experiment with self government is still unproven, to my thinking.

77 Kabal April 7, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Informedness as a criterion, or even just a weighting schema, for democratic participation cannot happen under our current cultural zeitgeist–because one would very quickly find that certain demographics are better-informed than others.

78 The Other Jim April 7, 2014 at 8:26 pm

This cheap-shot poll article is actually the first time I’ve heard about Ukraine in quite awhile. Down the memory hole it goes.

Putin certainly understands US media. He can take what he wants, count on Obama to do nothing except give a speech, and wait for the US media to applaud Obama for the speech… and then forget all about it. Everybody wins, really.

The next time he takes a piece of Ukraine, the US media will be “sick of hearing about that place” and consider it old news.

79 Jan April 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Not sure what media outlets you read, but Ukraine is a cover story on NYTimes, WSJ and the Post and the Wash Times right now.

80 Alexei Sadeski April 7, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Looks like a vast majority got it in the general area.

81 Thor April 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm

But that not a story.

There’s a story because people sprinkled their dots all over. (Perhaps to annoy the person asking them; perhaps out of ignorance.)

82 Alan April 7, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Two of the dots are near Square Kilometre Array sites and one is near Area 51. Do those three people know each other?

83 Noumenon72 April 7, 2014 at 11:03 pm


84 Kabal April 7, 2014 at 9:02 pm

“Men tended to do better than women, with 20 percent of men correctly identifying Ukraine and 13 percent of women… self-identified independents (29 percent correct) outperformed both Democrats (14 percent correct) and Republicans (15 percent correct).”

Unsurprising, but interesting.

85 Thomas April 7, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Now we have to figure out which institutions are holding womyn back in geography AND science. Ugh.

86 useful way to spot Venezuela on a map April 7, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Well, despite a decade or more of education, I mixed up Colombia and Venezuela for 40 years until I learned a useful trick, one of the two is geographically closer to their baseball loving friends in Cuba (and one of the two would have been easier for Columbus to visit) (or is it the other way around?)! I was in my 20s before I fully realized that New England clam chowder was the disappointing stuff with milk and Manhattan clam chowder was the real thing, the dairy free version – no cows in Manhattan anymore (a little hard for me because my grandparents’ parents were farmers in Hells Kitchen -specifically, on the ground where the bus station is now – back in the day)! Back to the map – I get the frequent dots in Yemen (a smaller country south of a bigger country) and in Alaska (Sarah Palin, who was right about the Ukraine, made a famous joke that the idiocracy in the media took literally, about Russia being visible from her porch or something), but the frequency of dots in the Black Sea demonstrate that the question could not have been completely fair. By the way, remember this, if you go to the DMV, you are hanging out with the elite who can pass a driving test – so this map of ununderstanding should not surprise anybody.

87 Jody April 7, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I just remember that we took Panama from Columbia… (took, helped to secede, aggressively interpreted our treaty to protect its neutrality, what’s the diff?)

88 useful way to spot Venezuela on a map April 7, 2014 at 9:47 pm

wish I had known that 40 years ago.

89 HoB April 7, 2014 at 9:22 pm

I like how the authors of the map felt the need to color the dots. Can’t assume that the readers would know where Ukraine is actually located, can you?

90 Rahul April 8, 2014 at 1:04 am

Nice comment!

At first, I assumed the colors were coded for number of respondents. Apparently not.

91 Steve Sailer April 8, 2014 at 7:03 am

The color represents distance from Ukraine.

92 Ryan April 7, 2014 at 9:24 pm

I’d always heard that people like to mess with survey takers when they ask questions that allow you to give absurd answers (which is why often surveys that don’t let you make unreasonable guesses are better). That’s what much of this map should be considered as. People screwing with the pollsters. There’s no doom and gloom here. I’d like to see a control here. Perform the same survey, but offer people 20 bucks if they get the country right and 10 bucks if they get semi-close. I can’t even quite tell from the map if you were allowed to click on the ocean or if those few dots represent clickable islands – good information to have in evaluating the efficacy of the survey.

Also, there seems to be a four distinct categories of people here:

1) people who clicked on Ukraine
2) people who clicked on the similarly-shaped Kazakhstan
3) people who clicked in the general vicinity of the Ukraine (surprisingly few people mistook Poland for the Ukraine, I thought)
4) people who clicked on a random portion of the map

Four is what makes reporting any measure of average really misleading here. I’d like to see what the distances look like graphed, because I suspect that we are not talking about a normal distribution of the data.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

93 Bill April 7, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Better yet, how many can name the leaders of their political parties, and what they stand for?

94 Bill April 7, 2014 at 9:40 pm

I was talking about leaders of Ukrainian political parties, although I suspect that many have difficulty finding leaders in American political parties, from week to week, or weak to weak.

95 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 10:45 pm

They have a lot of Y’s, T’s, and K’s in their names.

96 bxg April 8, 2014 at 12:59 am

“Darth Vader” – a single “T”, no Y’s or K’s, is that really anomolous?

97 JWatts April 8, 2014 at 8:17 am

Come now. Darth Vader wasn’t the party leader. That was Emperor Palpatine. However, the second part of your quote “a single “T”, no Y’s or K’s” is correct.

98 Thor April 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Had 25% of people been correct, with the remaining 75% confusing Ukraine and Belarus, we wouldn’t have had Tyler link to the story.

99 Alan April 7, 2014 at 10:41 pm


One of very few things more comfortable than mood affiliation is objective evidence for one’s superiority.

100 wiki April 7, 2014 at 10:06 pm

This simply maps into the fact that the less sophisticated and more provincial in the US tend to be more hawkish. But I bet if you’d asked on the eve of the Russian invasion of Crimea how likely it was that Putin would intervene militarily to further Russia’s interests that the most knowledgeable and sophisticated academics (such as Joshua Tucker) were the ones most likely to underestimate the chance of military intervention. Many publicly said that knowledgeable observers mostly agreed that Putin would gain little by intervening and were totally blindsided by events.

Hence, this question and its use by Monkey Cage is pure mood affiliation to deflect their awful track record in prognostication.

101 Jay April 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Uh no it doesn’t. As another poster already stated, if 10% of people like to give bogus answers to pollsters, both to where Ukraine is and whether we should invade, then you would see the same type of correlation and come to the same (wrong) conclusion.

102 Turkey Vulture April 7, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I am confident some of these people were screwing around.

103 carlospln April 7, 2014 at 10:12 pm

I like the dot on Alice Springs, NT.

104 Turkey Vulture April 7, 2014 at 10:39 pm

So how much more likely are people to favor action as they get more inaccurate? I don’t actually see any numbers in that write-up, leading me to suspect that the effect size is miniscule but they were able to get statistically significant results by coding errors in terms of miles (or something) of distance.

105 Alexei Sadeski April 7, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Whoever picked the Falkland Islands should get some sort of medal.

106 Anshu April 8, 2014 at 12:11 am

lol +1

107 commentariette April 8, 2014 at 12:08 am

The authors’ summary is (perhaps deliberately) misleading. The median distance error is a statistically nonsensical measure. Some kind of clustering/density statistic would be more sensible.

Except for a few outliers, these dots look pretty good to me. Most of the answers are along the European-Russian border; with another cluster along the Russian-Caucasus and Central Asian borders.

In other words, most people know that Russia has invaded a country near its west/southwest border. That’s a pretty reasonable description of the situation.

I assume the outliers are mostly non-responses (yeah, whatever, here’s a dot, let me get back to my ipod) or snark.

108 Paul April 8, 2014 at 1:58 am

Two people claimed to think it was in Australia? Non-responses – for sure.

109 Peter Dee April 8, 2014 at 2:15 am

Sweet Jesus, can you really blame all these poor people for not finding Ukrain on *that* map? I mean, what is that, a Mercator Projection? Gall Peters or GTFO!

110 Peter Dee April 8, 2014 at 2:16 am

yeah I meant Ukraine. Whatever. Area preserving projections FTW!

111 Cambias April 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

Goode Homolosine. Much less shape distortion plus it isn’t sold in head shops with a bunch of ideological baggage attached.

112 shrikanthk April 8, 2014 at 5:32 am

Most countries would do worse than this.

113 P April 8, 2014 at 5:40 am

I doubt that, certainly as far as the first world goes.

114 Jay April 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

For Ukraine yes since its on the door step of a lot of other first world nations, but ask them about a similar GDP as Ukraine country in South America and I think you’d get similar results (i.e. most getting the general area right and a lot of outliers who didn’t care about the survey).

115 prior_approval April 8, 2014 at 5:44 am

Well, the ones with non-functional education systems.

116 Siggi April 8, 2014 at 6:15 am

Quite a few dots on Iceland. Please, leave us alone!

117 yenwoda April 8, 2014 at 7:16 am

I like to think that the dots in Alaska and Canada were placed by folks who conjured up an image of “Ukraine Cornelius” from Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

118 chuck martel April 8, 2014 at 8:01 am

OK, how many of you dismissive geniuses could find the state of Colima on a map, name it’s largest city or even what country it’s in? Media references to cities like “Toronto, Canada”, imply that the reader doesn’t know that Ontario is a Canadian province. Geographical ignorance often includes the location of streets just a few blocks from where people live. That’s why cars are equipped with GPS maps. This is a non-story.

119 Brandon April 9, 2014 at 10:32 am

I wouldn’t really have a position on whether or not we should send our military to Colima, though. The story isn’t just “lol Americans don’t know geography,” it’s that not knowing geography correlates with aggressive foreign policy preferences.

120 chuck martel April 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I understand your point but the people that don’t know the location of a particular political entity on an unlabeled mercator projection don’t have much of an impact on foreign policy preferences, aggressive or otherwise. A popular vote wasn’t taken on the state department’s dispersal of $5 billion to Ukrainian opposition groups. The money probably wasn’t sent to Kazakhstan or Poland by mistake.

121 Paavo Ojala April 8, 2014 at 8:28 am

If 10% of respondents would give completely random answers to both questions (locate Ukraine and use military force) wouldn’t that produce similar correlation.

I’m not saying that is the reason or the researchers didn’t think of that and try correct for that phenomenon. I’m just curious how would you go about removing such effects from a survey study.

122 Cambias April 8, 2014 at 9:46 am

It’s also quite probable that people who don’t give a damn about where Ukraine is would also check the box for “sure, bomb ’em, whatever.”

123 Nikki April 8, 2014 at 11:13 am

Well, I think that what the Ukraine did invading Russia is quite unsettling. We should go in there and smoke them out of their caves.

124 Just another MR Commodore April 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Just dreadful ignorance, the other day I was speaking to some buffoon who had never even heard of the French Indochina. Dreadful level of education these lowly plebs have I do say.

125 Matt April 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I for one am impressed. Most people got pretty close, with the main confusion stemming from whether Ukraine is in Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

126 Robert April 9, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I gave this as an extra credit question on today’s quiz in Intro to Econ. 30 percent nailed it and the second most common answer was neighboring Belarus. Interestingly, the international students did worse than the American students.

127 Andao April 10, 2014 at 1:11 am

I have a feeling a much smaller proportion of people could properly identify Ukraine even 15 years ago. So maybe we should look at the trend instead of immediately slamming the results. One would hope that overall geographical skills of a society improve over time, but maybe not.

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