E pluribus ignorantia

Every year — at least for the last two years — Marist College in Poughkeepsie issues a 4th of July survey which does nothing to instill pride in America, by virtue of revealing our collective ignorance about U.S. history.

In 2010, for example, we learned that one in four Americans cannot name which country the United States declared its independence from (psst: It was England).

&nbsp USA Residents
On July 4th we celebrate Independence Day. From which country did the United States win its independence?
Great Britain Unsure Other countries mentioned
Row % Row % Row %
USA Residents 74% 20% 6%
Region Northeast 84% 10% 6%
Midwest 74% 21% 5%
South 68% 26% 6%
West 75% 18% 7%
Household Income Less than $50,000 63% 30% 7%
$50,000 or more 86% 9% 5%
Race White 82% 13% 5%
Non-white 56% 35% 9%
Age 18 to 29 60% 33% 7%
30 to 44 75% 15% 10%
45 to 59 79% 17% 4%
60 or older 76% 19% 4%
Age Under 45 67% 24% 9%
45 or older 78% 18% 4%
Gender Men 81% 12% 7%
Women 67% 28% 5%
July 2010 Marist Poll National Residents " MOE +/- 3%" Totals may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Having been publicly shamed, respondents didn’t get any smarter a year later (last year) when a similar percentage of people remained ignorant on the subject.

This time, Marist also asked what year the Declaration of Independence was signed adopted, which, of course, is what July 4th honors.

A little less than half of those surveyed could not name 1776.


We do not have advance information on what question will stump America tomorrow. We can, however, guess the results.

  • BJ
  • Jim Shapiro

    Blessed are the ignorant, for they will be choosing our next President. ( With a little help from their friends the corporations, of course.)

  • Disco

    I’d like to see a poll on details of the constitution. That would be eye-opening considering all the “unconstitutional” laws that are being passed these days. After all, everything is unconstitutional.

  • John P.

    I’ve been on a little personal project to refer to it as Independence Day rather that the Fourth of July. When you say to people “Have a nice Independence Day” some give you a puzzled look. Then a little teaching moment occurs, or at least a reminder of what the day is really about.