Ask the same questions in say, Singapore, and I guess that most people would do much better. The same would probably apply in quite a few Asian cities, provided you stuck to the city centre when asking your questions.
The results you got in Sydney would be interesting.
I visited my sister in the US a couple of years ago and found out why she phoned my mum when the Gulf War was on to find out what was actually happening. The news service in the US isn't anything like as good as we get here. The news channels I watched covered issues in the US all the time the rest of the world was hardly mentioned at all. If this is typical of the coverage they usually get in the US then its hardly surprising that they are ignorant about what goes on outwith their own country. I was only there for a few weeks but if this is the usual news they get then I can only be thankful that we have the news services we do.