July 2nd, 2010
11:24 AM ET
8 years ago

Don't know much about history?

 One in 4 Americans had difficulty identifying who this nation declared independence from.

One in 4 Americans had difficulty identifying who this nation declared independence from.

(CNN) – As Americans get ready to spend a long weekend marking this country's independence 234 years ago, a new poll suggests more than 1 in 4 Americans don't know which country America declared its independence from.

According to a new survey from Marist College, 26 percent failed to correctly identify Great Britain as the country the United States fought an eight-year war with to gain its independence.

That percentage of Americans includes the 20 percent who were "unsure" and the six percent who thought the U.S. fought a revolution against another country. Among the countries mentioned were France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain, according to the poll.

The poll's internals show younger Americans know least about this country's founding: only 60 percent of 18-29 year-olds could correctly name Great Britain. Men also had a considerable 81-67 percent advantage over women in naming the correct country.

The poll surveyed 1,004 Americans between June 17 and 24. It carries a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Filed under: July 4
soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. g

    looks the republican education system is right on track, keep them stupid and they will vote for you

    July 2, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. g

    arack.Hussein.Obama-America's-Benevolent-DICTATOR July 2nd, 2010 12:43 pm ET
    The liberals and Progressive Communists have controlled the schools in this country for DECADES. The fight to get their destructive influence out just started in Texas with the fight over history textbooks. So much of our history has been cleansed and distorted by them it is ridiculous.

    So if you want see why our children are nearly blithering idiots, you need look no further than the NEA and teachers unions around the country. It is impossible to fire the bad teachers and the children pay the price. Throwing money at the problem is a complete waste*****************************************************

    Well, maybe YOU should become a teacher. You know, since teachers have no clue what they're doing. I make less than a garbage man and teach your kids how to succeed at life, what's wrong with this picture???????? You Republican'ts sure don't mind throwing money at things, but instead of books it's bombs.

    July 2, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Biased

    We complain about the young not knowing their history but then we laud praise over a President who in a speech about immigration tried to imply that it was an immigrant to the US who envisioned and helped in creating or paying for the Statue of Liberty and changes history to his personal political means.
    He said in his speech –
    It was at this time that a young woman named Emma Lazarus,....... inspired by what she saw and heard, she wrote down her thoughts and donated a piece of work to help pay for the construction of a new statue - the Statue of Liberty - which actually was funded in part by small donations from people across America.
    ........years before it would be seen by throngs of immigrants craning their necks skyward at the end of long and brutal voyage, years before it would come to symbolize everything that we cherish - she imagined what it could mean. She imagined the sight of a giant statue at the entry point of a great nation -– but unlike the great monuments of the past, this would not signal an empire. Instead, it would signal one’s arrival to a place of opportunity and refuge and freedom.

    She may have helped by donating a poem to build the statue's base she stands on, and has the poem engraved there, but he somehow forgets to mention that the Statue of Liberty figure was designed, made in, and donated to the US by France. The US only took on the part of building the base for her to stand on when they brought her over as their gift. So everyone, even Presidents, don't know their history either or try to revise it when it suits..

    July 2, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. sniffit

    Well, our President believes we have 57 states and a Wisconsin supervisor claims Arizona is NOT on the US-Mexican border.

    July 2, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  5. conniesz

    I would very much like to see this data broken down in a few different ways (other than age groups). Which states are the most ignorant – I suspect these are mostly the heavily red/republican states. Which income group is the most ignorant – are we still not able to educate poor people? The raw data doesn't tell us much except that our education system is failing some people – we need to more clearly identify just where these failures are. Teaching that we were once British colonies and then rebelled and became our own country is not a Liberal or Conservative value – it is just a fact, and the last time I looked at a history book (a few weeks ago) that fact was still there.

    July 2, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  6. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    HEY "Get A Grip,"
    Get a grip or maybe a copy of My Pet Goat.
    GWB will go down in history as the worst, EVER, for generations to come.

    Americans are (I'm sorry people, but the truth is the truth) stupid because it suits politicians and big business.
    If the electorate is hungry and afraid, with few job prospects and not enough money to make ends meet, they can be cowed into almost anything.
    In this regard, I don't like Democrats any better than Republicans... They ALL suck.

    July 2, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. jerseylou

    That one in 4 has to be Republicans can't be any body else !

    July 2, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  8. Dave

    I really don't think we can blame this on the schools, teachers unions, education funding or anything else political. Regardless of schooling, there is a certain level of base general knowledge that you would just expect people to have picked up by the time they reach adulthood and this falls within that class. That this hasn't happened probably has as much to to with our dumbed down society that values and applauds the ability to perform on TV talent contests; catch, hit or throw a ball through a hoop; and to generally self-publicise, above any sort of real achievement or challenge that might encourage people to use their brains once in a while or pick up a book or newspaper.

    July 2, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. jpl89

    I once knew a French family, not educated beyond their equivalent of high school.

    They did not know where the US was, and couldn't find it on a map.

    Do not assume that it is only Americans who are ignorant.

    July 2, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. NVa Native

    This is what comes from the Tex-ass school system dictating what is in school books. Teaching faith based abstenece instead of honesty and responsibility.
    Plus the lizard brains chanting about how science is just a bunch of "theroies" while claiming religious books are fact based doesn't help.
    Probably the same morons get all their "book learning" from watching fox and feinds. Soon they'll be claiming Bush/Cheney was a good time in US history, and Obama caused all of the crap left from Bush/Cheney regime.
    Wait ..... the future is here!!!

    July 2, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. Death Panel Sarah

    This is why reptiliCONs keep getting elected.....the electorate is STUPID!!!
    (Sorry, they may just be VERY uneducated!)

    July 2, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    This is exactly why theRepublican Party of the United States still has ANY members left after the way they almost brought the country to it's knees: STUPIDITY, willful or otherwise.

    Look at the Tealiban Teablabbers: no matter how much FACTS point to taxes being the lowest they've been in 50 years, they still insist on the opposite.

    You can cure ignorance, but stupid is FOREVER.

    July 2, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Dumbasrocks [R]s

    When you consider that ~20% of the American populace comprises the base of the [R] party, these figures are not a mystery. These same deluded people obtain most of their "knowledge" of history from the brainwashing they get staring slack-jawed at FuxNews on their TV.

    When they hear the repeated, vile crap of lies on FuxNews about France and "socialist Europe", is it no wonder they want to make France, China, etc. our enemy going back to 1776? No, the stupidity uncoverd by this survey does not surprise me at all.

    And hey "Get a Grip": that thing you're gipping is making you lightheaded, you might want to let go before you go blind.....you've already gone stupid.

    July 2, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Gezus

    If we still allowed the children in schools to place their hands over their hearts and recite the pledge of allegience, then future generations may have a more deeper appreciation for the sacrifices our bravest of soldiers in the freedoms we enjoy!

    July 2, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. Rob

    Wasn't that the purpose of educaitonal reform - to dumb down the basics to the lowest common denominator of intellect and then base on your objectives on reaching the top of that low plateau? Sure, it was. Otherwise, you'd actually have to raise the bar to a globally-adjusted proper height for acceptable academic minimums, and that would discriminate against those who couldn't rise to meet that challenge. We knew July 4 as Independence Day when it wasn't a generic, nameless holiday ... like when Winter Break was known as Christmas Break and Thanksgiving was a time for all Americans to pause and give thanks to God for their blessings. Of course, God hadn't died yet back then.

    July 2, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    J Russ July 2nd, 2010 12:44 pm ET

    If it makes you feel better, he was wishing THE REST OF US a Happy 4th, NOT YOU! How's that? YOU know what the date represents so stop tripping and being so freaking petty!!

    The man is brilliant as proven by what he's been able to accomplish in spite of incredible obstruction from the culprits of this fiasco. People choose to ignore facts that hit them in the face day in and day out. I refuse to have this President also be responsible for educating those UNWILLING to be educated. He's got enough on his plate.

    Happy Fourth of July J Russ!

    July 2, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  17. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    And we let these idiots vote? Ridiculous...

    July 2, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. Death Panel Sarah

    The problem is aggrivated by talk radio spouting that the 'liberals' are 'elitists', just because they are better educated(or smarter), like there is something wrong with being smart(and, conversely, it is OK to be uneducated).
    This country needs to reset its course and start following the 'best and brightest' again, instead of the talking heads on the right.(Example: Ms. Palin did not even know Africa was a continent!!!)

    July 2, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. AJ

    Ten to one the "one in four" are all republicans.

    July 2, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  20. Jim Mc

    On the way in to work this morning I heard the entire Declaration of Independence read. Not just the preamble. Of course this was NPR, not Fox

    July 2, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. Abe

    Reading some of the right wingers responses is why I'm no longer a republican. I didn't vote for Obama and certainly don't support most of his stances but to throw ALL the blame on him is ignorant. If 18-29 were the worst that means most of them went to school during Bush Jr. era. Older people? Most likely Reagan and Bush Sr. Instead of scapegoating every single problem on the opposing party why not vote for people that actually make a difference.

    Do you fathom now how bad Bush really was? He was so bad Obama waltz right in without absolutely no scrutiny. Fix your own house first.

    July 2, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. Mike

    Wow, you Republicans are so stupid. YOU are the ones fighting tooth and nail to cut funding from schools, you are the ones trying to to cut art and music and science. You are the ones who rammed every "student left behind" down our throats and limit what we can teach in schools. I know many teachers who are very dedicated to teaching their students but, are stuck teaching students only the basics and they are spending their own money on school supplies. Insurance costs have killed field trips, which were common and plentiful during the '70's. Education has been whittled down so much it is no wonder why our schools are so bad. So lets not blame politics blame all of you who continue to vote NO for school funding. Energy costs have gone up, supply costs have gone up more computers are needed, old schools are needing to be up graded and repaired etc., etc. but, school funding keeps decreasing. Get with it people Obama has not created this, that is the most stupid thing to say. This has been going on for a long time.

    July 2, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. American Patriot - a "real" tea partier

    And it's because people don't know about history that Bush was "allowed" to pass the laws that were reminiscent of 1930's Germany when rights were restricted.

    History is too important to not know, but schools don't teach it anymore. They keep telling us that Columbus discovered America and we know that's a barefaced lie. The people that discovered America most likely came across a landbridge maybe 25,000 years ago. You can't discover someplace when someone is already there.

    July 2, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Dave

    If Americans understood history, there would be no Republican party. Look at the results that the areas of the country who most consistently vote Republican get. Is the South leading the nation in any way? No.

    The only thing Republicans know less about than history is science.

    July 2, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. Dave Harris

    These are the same people who claim to worship the constitution, although they have no idea what it says. We are truly a nation of morons.

    July 2, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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