Americans need to brush up on their U.S. history

Courtesy of Independence Hall Visitor’s Center

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday this week, a sizable portion of Americans don’t know the year we declared independence, or from which country

A notable proportion of Americans may need to brush up on their U.S. history, based on the results of a new Marist College poll out this week.

While 77 percent of residents nationally correctly cite Great Britain as the country from which the United States declared its independence, 23 percent either mention another country or are unsure.

These findings have changed little from when this question was last reported in 2011.

Education and income make a difference. Nearly nine in ten Americans with a college education or income above $50,000 are able to identify Great Britain as the country from which the United States won its liberty.

Of note, white Americans, 84 percent, are also more likely than Latino residents, 70 percent, or African Americans, 53 percent, to correctly identify Great Britain.

Although race is a factor, its importance is exaggerated by differences in education and income among ethnic groups. Interestingly, age makes little difference.

“Thirteen other countries get tabbed as the country from which the United States gained its independence,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “A scattering of people mention France, Mexico, and Germany among the longer list of countries. At least one person surveyed mentioned Afghanistan, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Panama, or Russia.”

Of those who identify as Tea Party supporters, only 77 percent know that Great Britain is the country from which the United States declared its independence; 14 percent said they were unsure and 9 percent named a different country.

Meanwhile, 30 percent of all those surveyed do not know the year in which the United States declared its independence. Included in this group are 11 percent of residents who mention a year other than 1776 and 19 percent who are unsure.

Seventy-two percent of those calling themselves Tea Party supporters correctly identified the year in which the U.S. declared independence, 17 percent said they were unsure and 11 percent answered with a different date.

But, there has been improvement. In 2011, 42 percent of U.S. residents were unaware of the year the United States broke away from Great Britain. Sixty-nine percent, up from 58 percent, now say the United States declared its independence in 1776.

This poll of 1,205 adults residing in the United States was conducted June 21 through June 25, 2017 by The Marist Poll, sponsored in collaboration with National Public Radio and PBS NewsHour. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

Of the 1,205 adults surveyed, 83 percent are registered voters.

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