Feb 18, 2019

A majority in every state but Vermont would fail a test of U.S. citizenship questions

A majority of Americans in every state except Vermont would fail a test based on the questions in the U.S. citizenship test, according to a survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

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Data: Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation; Map: Chris Canipe/Axios

Why it matters: It suggests most Americans can't live up to the standards we set for people applying to be U.S. citizens — and we set those standards because we expect Americans to be informed and engaged. Only four out of 10 Americans would have passed the test, and just 27% of those under age 45.

By the numbers: A few highlights from the survey, conducted for the foundation by Lincoln Park Strategies:

  • People did relatively well on the most basic questions. Seven out of 10 knew that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and that Franklin Roosevelt was president during World War II.
  • But only 43% knew that Woodrow Wilson was president during World War I (nearly one out of four thought it was Roosevelt), and only 56% knew which countries we fought in World War II.
  • Fewer than a third could correctly name three of the original states.
  • More than six out of 10 incorrectly thought the Constitution was written in 1776. (It wasn't written until 1787.)
  • Nearly four out of 10 thought Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb.

Methodology: The survey was conducted Nov. 14, 2018-Jan. 3, 2019 among 41,000 adults, using 20 history-specific questions from the practice tests for people taking the citizenship exam. The margin of error was 1 percentage point.

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