Chuck who?

chuck schumer official portraitThe Brennan Center recently released a "report card on New York's civil literacy." Newsflash: it's low, in most of the way's you'd expect (nope, the President can't declare war; the founders weren't trying to found a Christian nation; the Constitution's goal wasn't to increase the power of the 13 original states).

But this bit made us take notice/wonder/laugh wryly: 58 percent of New Yorkers in the survey failed to name at least one of the two current New York members of the US Senate. As the report notes (emphasis added):

Respondents were not given any list to choose from, so they had no opportunity to guess or "refresh their recollection." Kirsten Gillibrand, New York's junior Senator, was appointed less than two years ago, after then-Senator Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State. Senator Gillibrand had never previously run for statewide office, and the fact that her name wasn't widely known is not surprising. Chuck Schumer, though, has represented New York State since 1999 and is a major national player on the political stage. It is significant that so few New Yorkers were able to provide his name when asked, especially when we consider that both senators' names were on the ballot in the November 2010 elections and both were campaigning during the time the poll was conducted.

That's right, Chuck Schumer, who hasn't passed up an opportunity for a press conference -- ever* -- still not at the top of a majority of New Yorkers' minds.

It's worth noting that Schumer did get 65.5 percent of the vote in last year's election, so he's doing OK -- whether people remember his name or not.

The full Brennan Center report is embedded after the jump.

* Unconfirmed, but probably true.


Brennan Center New York Civil Literacy


I take for granted that I have friends who know that stuff. I can't stand watching things like Jay Leno's "Jay Walking." I can laugh at only so much ignorance. Oh it makes me so mad. But I'm sure it's exacerbated by being married to a history teacher...

To be fair, at least 40% call Schumer by more 'colorful' nicknames

This certainly puts into question the idea that we need more people to vote. If they get their understanding of our history and form of government from the screaming heads on cable television, better that they sit out the participatory part of democracy.

Of course, it's also possible that this just says something about the people who are willing to spend what looks like a tremendous amount of time on the phone with a stranger answering questions about how smart they are.

It's a little sad, that there are those believe that recalling the name of a Senator seems like trivia. At the same time, the utterances of a certain billionaire whose narcissism knows no bounds lands on the front page. This is an ongoing source of frustration for me. Can we get more people to vote? Sure we can, if we're talking "American Idol." Until the public feels engaged and buys in, we're doomed.

Am I really the first person to notice that the embedded Scribd report isn't working, unless you can read jibberish?

@Ellen: Sorry it's not working for you. Which browser are you using?

Here's a direct download link for a pdf of the report.

I hope these are the same people that think the Sun revolves around the Earth and we once lived with the Dinosaurs. Because if they are non-overlapping groups we are really screwed.

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