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Young Americans poor in Geography!

A majority of them are unable to locate Iraq, Ohio and New York on the map, finds a poll.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 18:43 IST

Young Americans know little about world geography, with the majority unable to locate Iraq on a map and three quarters unable to find Indonesia, according to a study released Tuesday.

The poll conducted by the public opinion research centre, Roper, on behalf of National Geographic found that most of the young adults questioned between the ages of 18 and 24 also had little knowledge about their own country, with half or fewer unable to identify the states of New York or Ohio on a map.

The survey results showed said that despite nearly constant news coverage since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, 63 per cent of respondents could not find Iraq on a map and 75 per cent could not find Israel or Iran.

Nine in 10 also could not find Afghanistan on a map of Asia and 70 per cent could not find North Korea.

Another hot spot in the news that failed to register with those questioned was Sudan, with 20 per cent placing the African country in Asia and 10 per cent in Europe

When questioned about natural disasters, only a third (33 per cent) correctly chose Pakistan from four possible choices as the country hit by a huge earthquake in October 2005.

"More than four in 10 can't even place Pakistan in Asia," a survey report said.

A third or more of those questioned also could not find the states of Louisiana or Mississippi on a US map despite massive media coverage of the 2005 hurricanes that devastated these states.

China fared better than most countries, with seven in ten (69 per cent) respondents able to find it on a map. Still, the study found, young Americans have a number of misconceptions about China.

Nearly 75 per cent believe English is the most widely spoken native language, rather than Mandarin Chinese and half think that China is the biggest exporter of goods and services rather than the United States.

More than half also significantly overestimate the population of the United State and believe China's population is only twice that of the US, when it is actually four times as great.

The survey was conducted between December 2005 and January 2006 and involved 510 interviews.

It showed that many of those questioned were not bothered by their lack of geographic knowledge.

"Half think it is 'important but not absolutely necessary' either to know where countries in the news are located (50 per cent) or to be able to speak a foreign language (47 per cent)," the report said.

National Geographic released the survey Tuesday in launching a five-year campaign to improve geographic literacy among young people in the United States.

"Geographic illiteracy impacts our economic well being, our relationships with other nations and the environment, and isolates us from our world," John Fahey, National Geographic Society president, said in a statement.

"Without geography, our young people are not ready to face the challenges of the increasingly interconnected and competitive world of the 21st century."