Almost a Fourth of Americans Do Not Know When the U.S. Declared Independence

Jul 4, 2011 10:20am

ABC News’ Amy Bingham reports:

American Fourth of July traditions are tightly woven into the fabric of U.S. society, but the history of the country’s independence seems to have slipped through the seams.  

A Marist poll released Friday shows that only 58 percent of Americans know when the country declared independence. Nearly a fourth of respondents said they were unsure and sixteen percent said a date other than 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Young people posted the most troubling scores with 41 percent of people ages 18 to 29 saying they were unsure when the Declaration of Independence was signed and 27 percent saying the wrong date.

One in four Americans do not even know which country the U.S. gained independence from. The correct answer, of course, is Great Britain, although 20 percent of respondents were unsure of that fact. 

Again, age made a big difference. Middle-aged Americans – ages 30 to 44 – guessed the wrong country more than any other age group, or 10 percent of the time. The younger generation was less likely to be flat-out wrong, but was more likely to be unsure. About one third of Americans age 18 to 29 said they didn’t know for sure which country America won independence from.

Even some of the most public political figures in the country have trouble with their American history.

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann flubbed her U.S. history last week when she declared that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery.

She later clarified her remarks in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos by saying John Quincy Adams, who worked to end slavery as American’s 6th president, was a founding father. Adams was 9 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed and was not elected to the White House until 26 years after George Washington’s death. 

 In March Bachmann mixed up her states when she told a group of supporters in New Hampshire, “You’re the state where the shot was heard ‘round the world at Lexington and Concord.” 

But those battles were fought in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire.

Herman Cain failed to brush up on his Constitution before he said in May that there was a “little section in there that talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That “little section” is, of course, from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

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