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Civic Literacy


Are most people, including college graduates, civically illiterate? Do elected officials know even less than most citizens about civic topics such as history, government, and economics? The answer is yes on both counts according to a new study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI’s basic 33 question test on civic literacy and more than 1,700 people failed, with the average score 49 percent, or an “F.” Elected officials scored even lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent and only 0.8 percent (or 21) of all surveyed earned an “A.”

Take the quiz here

Damn, I can't believe I missed two. How did you do?



Re: The civics quiz

I missed two as well - 49% is depressingly low for a multiple choice exam, though I would have expected an average somewhere near there.

I missed 2, #7 & #15.

I got 32/33, and I'm one of your Scottish readers! : everything I know about America I learned from the West Wing, the Daily Show and reading the links you post here, so you've no excuse!

Keep up the good work, Yours, Duncan.

P.S. - I got No. 8 wrong, the question about Roosevelt's defence of the New Deal. I'd have got 7 wrong too but I was reading the Gettysburg address this morning after looking up the original Day the Earth Stood Still - Klaatu goes to the Lincoln Memorial, reads Lincoln's words and thinks hope for humanity. I had the same reaction when you folk elected Obama.

Missed three, and I'm not even American. These numbers you cite, are they really from the same test? WTF is wrong with people?

WTF is wrong with people?

51% wrong on a multiple choice exam - and that was just the 2004 election.

I got bored with it after about 15 questions.

missed 1, #7. got lucky on lots though.

I missed 2. #7 & #33... I really should learn not rush at the end.

I'm embarrassed to report that I missed three: the levee question, the Puritan question, and the lincoln-douglas question.

Well, I'm an alien and even I'm embarrassed to have got six of the answers wrong. I simply cannot comprehend how US citizens could have performed so badly - what a sorry state of affairs.

By the way, what constitutes a passing grade of 'A'?

I am also embarrassed to say I missed 4 although I think one I just double clicked on.

I must say that there were at least 5 or 6 questions in there that were bad. I got the lincoln- douglas question right, but I find that to be spliting a historical hair and similarly with one that I got wrong, about FDR's threat to the supreme courts.

I think they are fair History questions, but to call them a test of "civic literacy" is a bit of a joke. A few more questions about divisions of power and the bill of rights would be nice.

32 of 33, although it was pretty stupid quiz with a number of extraneous, subjective or ideological questions. For example, the one lauding how a "free market" outperforms a command economy when in fact the US owes much of its lead in information technology precisely to its reliance on command economics.

My results were :-

You answered 28 out of 33 correctly — 84.85 %

Average score for this quiz during November: 78.0%

So, better than average, despite being a Scot living in Germany :-)

Huh, 55% here, but I'm german

I scored a 26, not bad for a Canadian. The test was a disappointment though. It was more like a test of the US State Religion than a legitimate, unbiased civics test. A lot of the answers to the questions are debateable, although it's clear what they want. For example in the question on trade, they want you to say it increases a nation's productivity, but you could also argue for it decreasing a nation's standard of living, as it has done.

I got 72% right, I am Spanish and I've only been in the US for six months ten years ago... that would give you a measure of much American culture has permeated all countries.

69.7% for me - but I plead being Canadian and trying to answer questions about your government and its legislation.

took it fast when tired at 2am and missed 4, (#4, #8 #11 and #27) and don't feel too bad about it.

I am dubious about the aforementioned 49% however. Methinks this may simply be a grown-man's 'virginity test'

Then again, maybe Sarah Palin threw the curve.

I got 82%, not too bad, esp. since I'm a foreigner who came here when I was already in my twenties.

I missed no. 33, but I think the wording for correct answer "D" should have been "per capita" rather than "per person", which implies a strict compensatory relationship (each person gets back exactly what they pay in).

33) If taxes equal government spending, then: A. government debt is zero B. printing money no longer causes inflation C. government is not helping anybody D. tax per person equals government spending per person E. tax loopholes and special-interest spending are absent

Missed three: Topic of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (my high school AP U.S. History teacher would be appalled!), origin of the phrase "Government of the people..." (seems like I need to brush up on my Lincoln), and the definition of "public good". Second guessed myself out of the right answer for the first and third though (of course I probably second guessed myself into the right answer on some others).

I missed two: #8 and #11. Surprised myself that I missed only two since I'm 65 years old, long time out of school.

I can't believe I got sandbagged by #33 ruining a perfect score...

Wikipedia says the group that put this test up, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, is "known for having distinctly American Conservative views", and I believe it after reading this question:

Free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government’s centralized planning because:

They're right about Americans sucking at civics, but it seems to me like they're at least a little blinded by ideology when they load their questions like that.


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