Guess what — a new poll shows that the Seven Dwarfs are better known in the U.S. than the Supreme Court Justices. According to the Reuters article, “Three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Show White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices.” The poll, conducted by Zogby International, also showed that 57 percent of Americans could name Harry Potter as the hero of J.K. Rowling's novels, but only 50 percent could identify the UK's prime minister as Tony Blair. Is this a case of “rational ignorance,” as CEI's president Fred Smith describes it?
“People have few reasons to spend their time learning the nuances of complex policy questions because they believe they can do very little about them. People are rational. They spend time familiarizing themselves with things about which they can do something. In politics, people aren't ignorant because they're stupid; they're ignorant because they're smart . . .”I'm a little skeptical about the poll's findings that only 57 percent of Americans knew who Harry Potter is. After all, according to the series' publisher, “there are 119.5 million copies of the U.S. edition of the first six Harry Potter books in print,” plus videos, games, etc. and the wildly popular movies. That's not rational ignorance.