A majority of Americans from all backgrounds struggled to come up with the correct answers in a quiz about American history by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI's basic 33 question test on civic literacy and 71% of them received an average score of 49% or an "F."
The quiz reveals that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people" comes from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
The study finds that only half of U.S. adults can name all three branches of government, and just 54% know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. Almost 40% incorrectly said that it belongs to the president.
Those who have held elected office lack civic knowledge; 43% do not know the Electoral College is a constitutionally mandated assembly that elects the president. One in five thinks it "trains those aspiring for higher office" or "was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates."
"There is an epidemic of economic, political, and historical ignorance in our country," says Josiah Bunting, III, Chairman of ISI's National Civic Literacy Board. "It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned. How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience? Colleges can, and should, play an important role in curing this national epidemic of ignorance."
How well do you know your American history? You can take the Civics Quiz by clicking on the link below.
Click here to take the quiz.