Shortly before the count of American military fatalities reached 4,000, a Pew survey found that only 28% of adults were able to correctly specify the approximate number of American troops who have died in the Iraq war; by contrast, in previous polls going back to the spring of 2004, nearly twice as many respondents could correctly estimate the number of fatalities around the time of the survey. As recently as August 2007, 54% correctly identified the fatality level at that time (about 3,500 deaths). In the current poll, more respondents underestimated than overestimated the number of fatalities. A plurality of 35% said that there have been about 3,000 troop deaths, and another 11% said there have been 2,000 deaths. Just under a quarter (23%) said the number of fatalities is closer to 5,000. The drop in awareness parallels declines in both media coverage of the war and public interest in it. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.