Just a third of Americans can pass a multiple choice "U.S. Citizenship Test," fumbling over such simple questions as the cause of the Cold War or naming just one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for.
And of Americans 45 and younger, the passing rate is a tiny 19 percent, according to a survey done for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
Worse: The actual test only requires that 60 percent of the answers be correct. In the survey, just 36 percent passed.
Among the embarrassing errors uncovered in the survey of questions taken from the U.S. Citizenship Test and conducted by Lincoln Park Stragtegies:
- 72 percent of respondents either incorrectly identified or were unsure of which states were part of the 13 original states.
- 24 percent could correctly identify one thing Benjamin Franklin was famous for, with 37 percent believing he invented the lightbulb.
- 12 percent incorrectly thought WWII General Dwight Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War.
- 2 percent said the Cold War was caused by climate change.
The foundation did the survey to make the point that Americans need to brush up on history and current events if they want to make a reasoned pick in the upcoming midterm congressional elections.
“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,” he added.
According to the foundation analysis:
Only 13 percent of those surveyed knew when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, even on a multiple-choice exam similar to the citizenship exam, with most incorrectly thinking it occurred in 1776. More than half of respondents (60 percent) didn’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II. And despite the recent media spotlight on the U.S. Supreme Court, 57 percent of those surveyed did not know how many Justices actually serve on the nation’s highest court.