Most of you will read this either the day before or the day after Independence Day. On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was revealed and the 13 colonies that made up the original United States declared their independence from England.
Many of us celebrate the day with picnics and parties and end the day setting off or watching — or both — fireworks. What is surprising — well, maybe not so surprising — is the number of people who don’t know how this country was founded.
Teens and young adults know the least about the foundation of the nation and those over 60 the most. First a look at a poll conducted by ABC News a few years ago. It checked in with kids 12 to 17.
• 14% of the nation’s teens think the U.S. declared independence from France
• 5% think we rose up against Canada
• A shocking 15% don’t know the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776
• 9% think that’s the day we ratified the Constitution
• 17% don’t know there were 13 original colonies
Colin Campbell who runs the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation said, “When you look at these numbers, it means that more than 5 million U.S. teenagers don't understand the true meaning of Independence Day.”
The lack of knowledge doesn’t stop there.
• 19% — after naming the executive and judicial branch — can’t name the third branch
• 25% of those surveyed don’t know the two sides that fought the Civil War
• 13% think the Civil War was fought between the United States and Great Britain
• 5% said the war was between the East and West
• 69% have no idea who authored the Star Spangled Banner
The quiz — as designed by Campbell’s organization — originally targeted fourth graders. The questions these answers fit are far less complex than the questions someone has to answer to become a U.S. citizen.
Included in the questionnaire was:
• Who becomes president if the president and vice president die?
• How many amendments are there to the Constitution?
Oh, in case you don’t know. Those answers are the Speaker of the House and 27.
The good news. Most could identify who currently occupied the White House and that Washington D.C. is the nation’s capital.
A poll a few years ago by Marist showed some interesting statistics about adults.
• 76% correctly know England is the country we declared independence from
• 19% — however — were unsure
• 5% mentioned another country
• Just 58% know the U.S. declared its independence in 1776
Breaking it down by age:
• 67% under 30 know England is the country we declared independence from
• 80% of those 60 and over know that
• 77% of those 45 to 59 know the answer
• 77% of adults 30 to 44 also know
• Just 58% know the declaration was presented on July 4, 1776
• 26% didn’t know the date at all
• 16% named another date entirely
Men are more likely than women to answer correctly. Those living in households of less than $50,000 in income were less likely to know the correct answers than those in households with $50,000 a year or higher.