The Pew Research Center poll said the difference showed up particularly when those surveyed were asked to identify public officials from their pictures.
Just 46 percent of those younger than 30 were able to identify John Kerry from his picture as the nominee for secretary of state (the survey was conducted before Kerry was confirmed by the Senate Jan. 29). But 74 percent of those 50 and older chose Kerry's picture from a group of photos.
Just 43 percent of all those surveyed were able to identify a picture of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., from a group of four photographs of female politicians, among them House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
When presented with a map of the Middle East in which Syria is highlighted, only half were able to identify the nation correctly.
About 91 percent of young people under 30 could identify Twitter's corporate logo; 67 percent of those 50 and older could do so. But 79 percent of the younger group recognized the symbol for the euro, compared to 62 percent among those 50 and older.
The poll was a web survey conducted Jan. 18-24 of 1,041 adults, 18 years of age or older. The survey was conducted by GfK Knowledge Networks among a random sample of households in their nationally representative online research panel, KnowledgePanel, Pew said.
The margin of error was 3.8 percentage points.