North Korea

Almost two-thirds of Americans cannot find North Korea on a map: survey

Both sides edging closer to war as tensions soar on Korean peninsula

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 2:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 2:04am

Only 36 per cent of Americans were able to correctly identify North Korea on a map in a recent Morning Consult survey. The experiment, as reported by The New York Times, found that there’s a relationship between geographic knowledge and policy preferences. People who can locate North Korea are more likely to favour diplomatic ways to deal with the country: economic sanctions, for instance, or increasing pressure on the country’s chief ally, China.

On the other hand, people who could not find the country were statistically more likely to favour doing things the old-fashioned way: by sending in ground troops. They were also more likely to feel we should not do anything at all. It is worth pointing out, however, that this group still preferred diplomatic approaches to North Korea, they just did so by a significantly smaller margin than the people who could actually find the country.

These results are similar to a 2014 study on another international flashpoint: Ukraine. That study found that the less knowledgeable people were about the country’s location, the more they favoured aggressive US interventions, like the use of military force.

The geographical questions are a novel way to illustrate a basic truth about civic life: “Information, or the absence thereof, can influence Americans’ attitudes about the kind of policies they want the government to carry out and the ability of elites to shape that agenda,” as political scientists Kyle Dropp, Joshua Kertzer and Thomas Zeitzoff wrote in The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog in 2014.

“War,” the old saying goes, “is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

Given what we are starting to learn about geographical knowledge and its relationship to policy preferences, it might be time to flip that saying on its head: Geography is God’s way of teaching Americans about avoiding war.