Hopkins Study Shows How Little Your Residents Know About State Government

A Johns Hopkins University press release (2018-12-11) announced the results of a new study designed to test your residents’ knowledge about the workings of state government. Despite state governments handling critical issues like education and public safety, the survey revealed a significant lack of knowledge by residents about how state governments work.

The press release stated that Johns Hopkins University political scientists Jennifer Bachner and Benjamin Ginsberg surveyed 1,500 across the United States for the survey.

Some of the startling results from the survey:

  • About 33 percent could not name their governor
  • Fewer than 20 percent could name their state legislators
  • Almost 50 percent could not say what their state spent the most on
  • More than 50 percent did not know if their state had a constitution
  • About 50 percent did not know if their state had a one or two-house legislature
  • About 25 percent did not know who ran elections
  • About 25 percent did not know whether the federal government or their state was primarily in charge of law enforcement
  • Thirty percent did not know who made zoning laws
  • Most respondents felt their state was doing a good job and liked their governor
  • Nearly 70 percent think their state government does a better job than the federal government

In the article, Ginsberg offered one reason for the survey results: a lack of media coverage on state government.

“One reason citizens know so little is lack of media coverage of state affairs,” Ginsberg said. “The media focus on Washington even though essential services like law enforcement and education are handled by the states. A lack of attention could lead not just to an uninformed public, but to an environment where special interest politics and corruption flourish.

The researchers plan on using the survey results to publish a book on the topic.