What percentage of Americans think immigrants should be required to speak fluent English to become a U.S. citizen? What percentage of Americans think Mormons should be allowed to practice polygamy under the First Amendment of the Constitution? What percentage of women consider themselves feminists?
No, these aren't the latest internal polls from a presidential campaign. They're questions from the new CBS program Power of 10, an ingenious game show that requires contestants to predict how Americans responded on a variety of topics. (The answers, by the way, were 71, 29, and 29 percent, respectively.)
Though the format also allows for silly questions like "What percentage of Americans think professional wrestling matches are real?" Power of 10's real power is that it relies heavily on hot-button political issues. By asking the public how they feel about immigration, security measures, and the definition of marriage, it has the potential to tap into the Red State versus Blue State obsession that has gripped the nation for the last few years. It also offers viewers the chance to feel either outraged or comforted, depending on how closely America's point of view mirrors their own. If it can iron out its weighted-down format, that is.
Though host Drew Carey, one of Hollywood's few conservatives, brings a sense of wry humor to the show, his attempts to help contestants think through the questions go on too long. If CBS hopes to win the ratings game, the producers need to do away with the extended chatter, include more surveys, and set a more energizing pace. Especially considering, as far as network television goes, this is pretty heady stuff.
Conducted by the well-respected Rasmussen Report using nationally representative methods, the show's polls are at least as accurate as those being trumpeted by newspapers every day. For those interested in the demographics, the CBS website even breaks down the responses by gender, race, age group, and party affiliation. So while Power of 10 may or may not prove to be a winner with average Americans, it should be must-see TV for 2008's political contenders.