Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The American Revolution Center: Fascinating Polling Data

Billed as “A 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to engaging the public in the history and significance of the American Revolution and its enduring legacy,” The American Revolution Center has done a fascinating and rather telling survey of American’s knowledge of The American Revolution.

From the survey’s introduction, we learn: “In July 2009, The American Revolution Center commissioned a survey of adult knowledge of the American Revolution and the Founding of the United States. The survey determined how much Americans value knowledge of the American Revolution and their interest in learning more about the subject. Respondents were asked to give themselves a “letter grade” based on their understanding of the history and ideals of the American Revolution. They were then given a test of 27 multiple-choice questions to gauge their actual knowledge of key documents, events, people, and ideas from the Founding period.”

The survey finds that Over 90 percent thought it is important for Americans to know the history and principles of the American Revolution, and Most Americans gave themselves high marks on their knowledge of the American Revolution and our Founding documents. Democrats believed themselves to be more knowledgeable than others about the Revolution, with 14 percent grading their knowledge an “A,” while eight percent of Republicans and ten percent of Independents felt they were top of class. On a 27-question test, a national sample of American adults scored an average of only 44 percent correct. Nearly 83 percent received a failing grade, meaning that they could not answer more than 16 of the 27 questions correctly. In general, Democrats scored worse than Republicans or Independents, although Democrats did know more about a couple of specific issues. However, Americans are generally failing their Founding Fathers by not upholding their desire for each generation to understand why this greatest nation was founded.

A majority of Americans knew that the reality-TV Gosselin family has eight children. A majority also thought that the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, or the War of 1812 occurred before the Declaration of Independence. Similarly, more Americans knew the accomplishments of Michael Phelps and Michael Jackson than knew what our Constitution was meant to achieve. One-third of Americans, for example, did not know that the Bill of Rights includes the right to a jury trial.

More than a third of American adults could not place the American Revolution in the correct century.

In spite of pledging allegiance “to the republic for which it stands,” equal numbers of Americans mistakenly believe that the Constitution established a direct democracy as correctly identify our form of national government as a democratic republic. This basic fact is included on the naturalization exam for immigrants to qualify for U.S. citizenship, and yet more than half of Americans do not know it.

Less than half of Americans were able to identify the Second Continental Congress as the body that declared American independence from Great Britain; 20 percent thought it was the British House of Commons.

Throughout the survey, each question was broken down by demographic, including but not limited to age, gender, income level, education, residential region, and political affiliation. Some of the responses when viewed through the demographic prism – especially as related to political affiliation - are absolutely astounding.

For example, the first question asked is, “To begin, how important is it for American schools to teach students about the history and principles of the American Revolution?” 49 percent of Republicans stated that this is important, as opposed to 35 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of Independents. More Independents and Republicans gain knowledge about the Revolution through self education and schooling than Democrats, while Democrats gained more information through Television than the other two groups.

Republicans and Independents also feel more strongly than Democrats that the principles for which the Revolution was fought apply to society today, by percentages of 49, 49, and 40 respectively. (I personally believe many did not understand this question... or we are in real trouble... as certainly the same fundamental principles exist today as did 233 years ago.)

Only 71 percent of Democrats felt that the right to practice the religion of your choice is an essential right, as opposed to 85 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Independents. Continuing on the subject of religion, only 59 percent of Democrats felt that the right to practice no religion is vital, while 69 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Republicans felt the same.

Not surprising to learn is that only 27 percent of Democrats felt that the right to own a firearm is vital. Discouraging, however, is that only 49 percent of Independents and 62 percent of Republicans felt the same.

Sadly, only 64 percent of Democrats expressed interest in continued learning about the American Revolution. Just as discouraging is the fact that only 66 percent of Independents and 73 percent of Republicans wish to know more about the war that won our freedom.

A shockingly low 73 percent of Democrats knew that 13 states were formed immediately after the United States won its independence from Great Britain. Eighty-one percent of Independents and 88 percent of Republicans knew the correct number of states in the new-born nation. Furthermore, only 68 percent of Democrats knew that “We the People” are the opening words to the U. S. Constitution, as compared with 82 percent of both Independents and Republicans.

More than half of those surveyed attributed Karl Marx’s “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” to George Washington.

The full survey in .pdf form including results can be found here, and the complete website for The American Revolution Center is here.


Bob Qat said...

There is a copy of the US Constitution test immigrants get before citizenship posted at

Its fascinating (and appalling) most immigrants are better informed on American history and legal foundations than most natural citizens. More appalling is so many natural citizens don't care.

Bob Qat said...

I forgot to mention the test posted at that link is a bit out of date. It calls Clinton the current President. But you're a conservative, you have a functioning brain, you would have figured that out for yourself.

One Ticked Chick said...

Well aren't these disheartening results. =( I'm surprised that only 49% of Republicans thought it was important for our schoolchildren to be taught about the history and principles of the American Revolution. No wonder we're in the mess we're in.

It's belated, but Happy New Year, Sol.

Soloman said...

Bob Qat - You're right, it is amazing that many immigrants know more than we natural born citizens. I also very much agree about your statement about how today's society many times doesn't even care. Those were the numbers I found most disturbing.. especially as I am craving all the information I can find about our founding.

But wait a minute... Clinton's not president? LOL!!!

Soloman said...

Hey Ticked Chick.. I agree... we're in a mess, and it's generally our own fault. Maybe not you and I specifically (in fact as former liberals both I think we're largely exempt from blame) but still.. America is on a downhill slide with regards to understanding our own history.

Happy New Year to you too!

tammy said...

Doesn't surprise me at all. How sad.

Soloman said...

tammy - I must admit, I'm not terribly surprised, but I am thoroughly disappointed.