What to do with Ukraine?


Besides the fact that Ukraine has the highest proportion of women in the world, with 100 for every 85,5 men, and that Ukrainians are the fifth most-drinking nation in the world (that is to say, only Moldavians, Russians, Hungarians and Czechs are ahead of them; an average Ukrainian older than 15 drinks 15.6 litres of alcohol a year – that’s a litre more than an average Irishman and almost two litres more than an average Norwegian), it is a country in a sad present political state.

Since Russian troops first entered the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, a series of media polling outlets have asked Americans how they want the U.S. to respond to the ongoing situation. Although two-thirds of Americans have reported following the situation at least “somewhat closely,” most Americans actually know very little about events on the ground – or even where the ground is.

From March 28 to 31, 2014, The Washington Post asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: in addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, they also asked the survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. The newspaper wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views.

It was found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: namely, the farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.

Survey respondents identified Ukraine by clicking on a high-resolution world map, shown above. We then created a distance metric by comparing the coordinates they provided with the actual location of Ukraine on the map. Other scholars have used pictures to measure visual knowledge, but unlike many of the traditional open-ended items political scientists use to measure knowledge, distance enables us to measure accuracy continuously: People who believe Ukraine is in Eastern Europe clearly are more informed than those who believe it is in Brazil or in the Indian Ocean.

About one in six (16 percent) Americans correctly located Ukraine, clicking somewhere within its borders. Most thought that Ukraine was located somewhere in Europe or Asia, but the median respondent was about 1,800 miles off – roughly the distance from Chicago to Los Angeles – locating Ukraine somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north.

“I ask you, people who care about the soul of Ukraine, those who want to preserve the heart, the spirit and the faith of our country for future generations, to please defend it.” – Yulia Tymoshenko

All in all, the results were clear, but also somewhat disconcerting: The less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the U.S. to intervene militarily.

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One thought on “What to do with Ukraine?

  1. …they also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map” – I DO hope they didn’t ask Sarah Palin (about whom John Cleese, of Monty Python once quipped dryly, “I used to think Michael was the funny Palin.”).

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