The Press: Ignorance Is Embarrassing

How intelligently does the average citizen respond to a poll? Not very, in the opinion of Los Angeles Mirror-News Columnist Paul Coates (TIME, Jan. 17, 1955). "To us average citizens," says Coates, "ignorance is not bliss; it's embarrassing. Ask us something about anything, and we'll give you a carefully considered answer, even though we don't understand your question."

To make his point. Columnist Coates set himself up as the "Los Angeles Survey Institute," and assigned three assistants to call 150 names (mostly housewives) chosen at random from the telephone book. The "Institute's" question was loaded: "Do you think the Mann Act deters...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!