A nation-wide survey by analytic research firm Lincoln Park Strategies found that only 1-in-3 (36%) Americans (sample size: 1000/random) can pass their own countries citizenship test. The test is constituted of 100 multiple choice questions concerning formative US history. Some pertinent results were as follows
- Only 13% of those surveyed knew when the Constitution was ratified (many thought that it was ratified in 1776, though it was actually ratified in 1788 and put into effect in 1789).
- 72% misidentified or could not identify the original 13 states.
- 60% of respondents had no idea which countries the United States fought in during WWII.
- 57% did not know how many justices served upon the supreme court.
- Only 24% could correctly identify one thing Benjamin Franklin was known for; 37% of respondents believed Franklin invented the lightbulb (!).
- Only 24% knew why the colonists fought the British.
- 12% thought D. Eisenhower commanded troops in the Civil War, whilst 6% thought he was a general in Vietnam.
- 2% of respondents believed the Cold War was caused by climate change.
Additionally, 40% of respondents noted that history was their favorite subject in school, with 39% replying that it was of middling favorability to them, in terms of courses of study. Age gaps were significant; unsurprisingly, the oldest respondents were the most accurate, specifically those 65 yrs and older. Among respondents under the age of 45, only 19% passed the test, 81% received a fail (59% on exam or less).
This lack of general historical knowledge makes a different 2017 survey, wherein 1-in-5 (23%) Americans 21-29 described Joseph Stalin as a “hero,” a little more understandable, if no less unfortunate.
As a sound first step in remedying this situation I would recommend The American Age by Walter LaFeber, a excellent tome, both informative, well written and — wonder of wonders for a historical text — exciting to read, and well Americans should, for a uninformed citizenry is none at all.