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Gallup Quizzes Americans on Knowledge of World Leaders

Gallup Quizzes Americans on Knowledge of World Leaders

Americans most commonly identify Castro

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- In its annual World Affairs survey, Gallup recently asked Americans to name the person holding each of six world leadership titles, including five heads of state and the U.S. secretary of state. With some of the names more prominent than others, half of Americans correctly identified three or more of the six leaders, including 2% who correctly identified all six and 15% who correctly identified five of six. Eighteen percent of Americans could not identify any of the six world leaders in the quiz.

The Feb. 6-9 poll asked Americans whether they could name the presidents of Russia and Mexico, the prime minister of Great Britain, the chancellor of Germany, the leader of Cuba, and the U.S. secretary of state.

Knowledge of World Leaders,
Feb. 6-9 Gallup Poll


Percentage
correctly
identifying

Leader of Cuba

70%

U.S. secretary of state

56%

Prime minister of Great Britain

54%

President of Russia

37%

President of Mexico

29%

Chancellor of Germany

4%

Americans were most often able to correctly identify the leader of Cuba as Fidel Castro -- 70% did so. That is similar to the percentages of Americans who answered this item correctly in 2000 (76%) and 2003 (71%) surveys on this topic.

Slightly more than half of Americans, 56%, correctly named Condoleezza Rice as U.S. secretary of state. That is similar to the percentage (57%) who correctly named Colin Powell as secretary of state in 2003, and significantly higher than the percentage (33%) who identified Madeleine Albright as secretary of state in 2000.

A majority of the U.S. public also correctly said that Tony Blair is the prime minister of Great Britain. Knowledge of Blair is similar now to what it was three years ago (51%), and significantly higher than it was earlier in his tenure (22% in May 2000). Blair was elected prime minister in 1997. His profile among the American public has been raised due to Britain's involvement in the Iraq war.

Thirty-seven percent of Americans identified Vladimir Putin as the Russian president, about the same percentage as did so in 2003 (40%). Like Blair, Putin has become more familiar to Americans compared with earlier in his presidency. Only 18% identified him as president in May 2000, a few weeks after he took office.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans can recall the name of Mexico's president, Vicente Fox. This is the first time Gallup has asked about Fox since he was elected in 2000. Interestingly, there are wide variations in knowledge about Fox based on where Americans live. Those in the Western part of the country are roughly twice as likely as those in any of the other regions to be able to identify Fox. Forty-six percent of Westerners know who the Mexican president is, compared with 23% of those in the East, 25% in the Midwest, and 25% in the South.

Just 4% of Americans can identify Angela Merkel, the new chancellor of Germany who rose to that position in November 2005 after a disputed election outcome.

Two factors seem to affect the extent to which Americans are familiar with world leaders. One is longevity: Castro may be the most well known because he has been in his position for more than 40 years, while on the other extreme, Merkel has been in hers for only three months. Blair and Putin became more familiar to Americans (up to a point) over time. A second factor is their prominence in world affairs. Fox and Putin have been in power for about the same amount of time, but Russia in many ways is a bigger player on the world stage than Mexico. Also, Putin has made some controversial decisions as president that have attracted attention and scrutiny.

Knowledge Compared With Previous Years

Overall, 17% of Americans can be considered to have high knowledge of the world leaders -- they are able to correctly identify five or six of those in the quiz. Forty-eight percent have moderate knowledge, being able to identify two to four leaders, and 35% have low knowledge, being able to identify just one or no world leaders.

Americans' knowledge of world leaders has not changed appreciably, when compared with the last time Gallup ran the quiz in 2003. In that year, respondents were asked to name the U.S. secretary of state plus the leaders of Cuba, Great Britain, Russia, Israel, and Canada.

Americans' Knowledge of
World Leaders, 2003 and 2006


Number correct

2003

2006

Six

4%

2%

Five

19%

15%

Four

16%

15%

Three

13%

18%

Two

15%

14%

One

15%

17%

Zero

18%

18%

Average

2.7

2.5

In the 2000 World Affairs Poll, Gallup asked Americans to name five leaders -- the president of Russia, the prime ministers of Great Britain and Canada, the leader of Cuba, and the U.S. secretary of state. Knowledge of world leaders in 2000 was lower compared with 2003 and this year. At that time, just 2% knew Jean Chretien was prime minister of Canada, only 33% could name Madeleine Albright as secretary of state, and only about one in five knew of Putin and Blair at that point in their tenures.

Americans' Knowledge of
World Leaders, 2000


Number correct

2000

Five

1%

Four

9%

Three

13%

Two

18%

One

38%

Zero

22%

Average

1.5

Variations in Knowledge

Knowledge of world leaders varies considerably by age. Americans under age 35 are much less knowledgeable about who currently holds prominent world leadership positions than are those 35 and older. About one in three Americans below age 35 could not identify a single world leader of the six tested in the survey.

Knowledge of World Leaders, 2006,
by Age Category


Number correct

18-34

35-54

55+

Five or six

9%

20%

21%

Three or four

29%

34%

36%

One or two

30%

32%

30%

None

32%

14%

13%

Average

1.8

2.7

2.8

Additionally, Americans who say they follow international affairs "very closely" do much better on the quiz than those who follow them less closely. In fact, one out of three Americans who pay very close attention to world affairs was able to identify five or six of the six world leaders.

Knowledge of World Leaders, 2006,
by How Closely Respondents Follow World Affairs


Number correct

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not
closely

Five or six

33%

15%

3%

Three or four

38%

36%

19%

One or two

24%

31%

40%

None

6%

17%

38%

Average

3.3

2.5

1.3

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,002 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 6-9, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

29. Finally, do you happen to know the name of any of the following people?

A. The current Russian president

Vladimir Putin
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2006 Feb 6-9

37%

1

62

2003 Feb 3-6

40%

3

57

2000 May 18-21

18%

8

74

B. The U.S. secretary of state

Condoleezza
Rice
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2006 Feb 6-9

56%

4

41

Trend for Comparison: Colin Powell

Colin Powell
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2003 Feb 3-7

57%

6

37

Trend for Comparison: Madeleine Albright

Madeleine
Albright
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2000 May 18-21

33%

2

65

C. The leader of Cuba

Fidel Castro
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2006 Feb 6-9

70%

--

30

2003 Feb 3-6

71%

2

27

2000 May 18-21

76%

*

24

* Less than 0.5%

D. The prime minister of Great Britain

Tony Blair
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2006 Feb 6-9

54%

*

45

2003 Feb 3-6

51%

3

46

2000 May 18-21

22%

5

73

* Less than 0.5%

E. The chancellor of Germany

Angela Merkel
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2006 Feb 6-9

4%

6

90

F. The president of Mexico

Vicente Fox
(correct)

Other
(incorrect)

No
opinion

2006 Feb 6-9

29%

1

70

Gallup

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