It seems to be common sense that an American citizen would have no trouble passing the country’s citizenship test, right?
Well, not so fast.
A poll from Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that only one-third of Americans were able to pass the test, as a majority struggled to answer basic questions about the country’s history, how the political process works and some famous citizens.
So what did they get wrong, and would you know the answer?
According to the poll, which randomly surveyed 1,000 Americans, just 13 percent correctly answered that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 — and not the common misconception that it happened in 1776. Another 72 percent couldn’t name all of the 13 original states.
For the poll, people were given multiple choice questions and asked to answer at least 60 percent correctly. The real citizenship test is not multiple choice, and instead requires people to correctly answer six of ten questions to pass, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is usually given in English, the agency wrote online, but is sometimes offered in other languages.
The fact that just 36 percent of current American citizens would likely pass the citizenship test is unacceptable, Woodrow Wilson Foundation President Arthur Levine said in a press release.
“With voters heading to the polls next month, an informed and engaged citizenry is essential,” he said in the press release. “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,” he continued. “Knowledge of the history of our country is fundamental to maintaining a democratic society, which is imperiled today.”
Along with struggling to name the date that the Constitution was ratified, the poll also found that 37 percent incorrectly believed that Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb — and just twenty-four percent could name an actual accomplishment of his in life.
Just under 60 percent didn’t know the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Another 12 percent believe President Dwight D. Eisenhower served in the Civil War, the poll found, even though he was a general in World War II. And somehow, two percent of people responded that the Cold War had something to do with climate change.
When asked why the colonists fought the British, just one-fourth of respondents provided the correct answer.
There appeared to be an age difference in how people did. Seventy-four percent of people over the age of 65 passed, the poll found, while only 19 percent of those under 45 did the same.
And in a twist of irony, 79 percent of people in the poll hailed history as either their favorite or one of their favorite subjects in school.