Three political scientists review some recent survey evidence on public opinion and knowledge about other countries. They found that the less that Americans know about where Ukraine is the more likely they are to favor military action in response to the crisis:
However, the further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests [bold mine-DL]; all of these effects are statistically significant at a 95 percent confidence level. Our results are 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.
It makes sense that ignorance about a country’s location and its importance to U.S. security would be associated with a preference for more aggressive policies. Those that know the least about the country and U.S. interests presumably would be more likely to accept arguments that exaggerate the threat to the U.S., especially if they are relying on news sources that sensationalize the events and hype the threat in order to attract an audience. Because these respondents have a poorer understanding of the most basic facts, the more likely they are to fall for alarmist demands for “action” and the less likely they are to have considered the considerable dangers and costs that a hard-line response would almost certainly entail. These findings suggest that an increase in public knowledge about the facts of the crisis would further reduce Americans’ support for punitive measures against Russia, since at least some of this support relies on a serious lack of understanding of the location and context of the crisis.