Poll: 1/3 of Americans Pass Citizenship Test, Blame Climate Change for Cold War

Most respondents couldn't answer basic questions about our history during the American Revolution and World War II.

A new survey commissioned by Lincoln Park Strategies found that only 36% of Americans could pass multiple choice test with questions drawn from the U.S. Citizenship Test, which has a passing score of 60, according to a national survey released today by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The survey was administered by Lincoln Park Strategies.

“With voters heading to the polls next month, an informed and engaged citizenry is essential,” Woodrow Wilson Foundation President Arthur Levine said. “Unfortunately this study found the average American to be woefully uninformed regarding America’s history and incapable of passing the U.S. Citizenship Test.  It would be an error to view these findings as merely an embarrassment. Knowledge of the history of our country is fundamental to maintaining a democratic society, which is imperiled today.”

Levine added, “Americans need to understand the past in order to make sense of a chaotic present and an inchoate future. History is both an anchor in a time when change assails us and a laboratory for studying the changes that are occurring. It offers the promise of providing a common bond among Americans in an era in which our divisions are profound and our differences threaten to overshadow our commonalities."

Here are some key findings from the survey:

  • Only 13% of respondents knew when the Constitution was ratified
  • Over 60% of respondents didn't know which countries the U.S. fought against during World War II
  • 57% of respondents don't know how many Justices sit on the Supreme Court
  • 24% of respondents correctly knew why colonists fought the British during the American Revolution
  • 12% percent incorrectly thought WWII General Dwight Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War; 6 percent thought he was a Vietnam War general;
  • 2% of respondents said climate change caused the Cold War, despite them having general knowledge of it

They also noted the age disparity of respondents on how they answered questions accurately, saying,

> Those 65 years and older scored the best, with 74 percent answering at least six in 10 questions correctly. For those under the age of 45, only 19 percent passed with the exam, with 81 percent scoring a 59 percent or lower.

The survey spoke with 1,000 respondents and had a margin of error at +/-3.5%.

These findings don't come as a shock to me. In April, it was revealed that over 66% of Millennials don't know what Auschwitz was. Many Americans, especially Millennials, think socialism is cool. Most Americans my age are clueless about our basic history, apart from the revisionist tale they are feed in high school and at universities.

This survey should be a clarion call to boost civics education, or else we are doomed as a society...

No. 1-2

Will have to start by teaching the TEACHERS. What is being taught in College of Education is how to get students through a curriculum. Start with a faulty curriculum (or actual knowledge to create a factual curriculum), successfully achieve the purpose of getting students through said faulty cyrriculum and voila, Gen X and Millennials.

The wrong job executed flawlessly...remains the wrong job.


The results of the survey are appalling, but not surprising.

I have always been eager to learn more history -- both American history, and world history -- and feel embarrassed when I do not know basic facts. I would like to see some additional questions -- or an entirely new survey -- which I suspect would confirm an additional contributing problem: Many Americans today, especially younger Americans, see no need or reason to know history, since it holds no interest for them; and besides, if there is anything they want to know, they believe they can just look it up on their internet-connected smartphones.

I do not know how to make people WANT to know history. Barring that, perhaps we need to return to more traditional subjects in school, requiring things like "American History," taught in a traditional, fact-based way -- rather than "Theoretical American History," or "The Role of Class Warfare in American History." Students could still opt for classes such as "Gender Studies," in addition to the required courses.

(My high school had no course named "Civics," though thankfully still required all students to complete a one-semester "Government" course -- but that was several decades ago.)