The January/February 2016 issue of Skeptical Inquirer has an article about Trends in Scientific Knowledge, Education, and Religion, by Charles S. Reichardt. The article in turn references Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 from the National Science Foundation. Here are some of the more distressing findings from the US regarding knowledge of basic scientific facts:
In the U.S., 74% of the respondents answered this question correctly: Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? Think about that. A little more than one in four people does not know the correct answer to this most basic of science questions. (By the way, the EU scored a shockingly low 66% on this question.)
59% of respondents think that antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
53% of respondents think that lasers work by focusing sound waves.
Quoting directly from the report:
Fewer Americans rejected astrology in 2012 than in recent years. In 2012, slightly more than half of Americans said that astrology was “not at all scientific,” whereas nearly two thirds gave this response in 2010. The comparable percentage has not been this low since 1983.
These people can vote.Couple this with the simulation at fivethirtyeight.com, where a shift of non-college-educated white voters voting Republican from 62% to 69% (with the same rate of turnout) flips the election.
(Edit: I am not saying that these people should not be allowed to vote. I am just saying that they do vote. The fact that there are large numbers of people with very limited knowledge of the U.S. system of government who vote is also distressing. Your mileage and level of distress may vary.)
Edit at 2:21 p.m. Here are the results of a civics survey from 2014.