Home > American Pulse, InsightCenters > Generation Gap: Presidential Pop Quiz

Generation Gap: Presidential Pop Quiz

It seems as though Americans were right in saying the quality of education in the U.S. is slipping, and recent American Pulse results support that argument. 66.0% said our children’s knowledge of historical events has gotten somewhat or much worse in the past 10 years. However, it’s not just the children who are forgetting key facts about U.S. history—older generations’ minds are slipping as well, and they don’t have a “failing school system” to blame. The gold stars are few and far between for the Presidential Pop Quiz.

4 in 5 Americans (79.6%) don’t know who wrote the law of the land and is known as the Father of the Constitution. (Seems like an important tidbit that should be remembered instead of pop lyrics, sports stats or a date’s phone number.) Only 20.4% knew that James Madison is the man behind the manuscript that governs our country; most (59.8%) believe Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution. Members of Generation Y, those most recently submerged in the school system, were slightly more likely to pick Madison:

Having lived through a historical event seems to make it more memorable. Older Americans in the Silent Generation were most likely to remember that Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for the economic programs known collectively as the New Deal. 87.5% of these wise citizens picked the correct answer vs. 58.9% of the youngsters in Gen Y (still a majority though). Members of the Silent Generation know their assassination history better than other ages as well:

Now for the trick question:

Which president was in office when we landed on the moon?

  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard Nixon
  • Gerald Ford

Did you pick out Nixon? The majority of Americans did not—JFK (36.8%) was the popular choice, likely because he declared in 1961 there would be a moon landing by the end of the decade. A significant number of citizens (27.4%) thought Lyndon B. Johnson was in office when we landed on the moon, since he was in office the same year, 1969 (perhaps a thank you should go out to the Disney show Even Stevens for a catchy tune about that). Overall, roughly one-third (32.3%) picked the right president. Boomers, followed by members of Gen Y, were most likely to name Nixon as the Commander in Chief when the lunar landing took place:

Although it seems factual knowledge of the U.S. presidents is lacking, American citizens have a good idea of which presidents would do the best job handling the current economic situation. Nearly 1 in 4 (23.5%) would bring back Ronald Reagan if they could pick any past or current president to run the country. Older Americans show more support for the former-actor-turned-politician; 30.5% of Boomers and 32.4% of the Silent Generation miss Reagan’s tax cuts, deregulation efforts and ability to sustain general prosperity across the nation. Bill Clinton was the #2 pick for most (#1 for Gen Y). I think it’s safe to say Americans don’t want another scandal, but they would prefer a drop in national debt! The #2 for Gen Y is current president, Barack Obama, third among the general population in presidential popularity.  To see how Obama stacks up in 2012, check out the American Pulse™ InsightCenter™, updated twice a month.

Fun Fact: 13.4% of Gen Yers would like to bring back Abraham Lincoln…because he was a truthful politician or because he hunts vampires? I am scared to know the honest answer to that one…

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, June 2012 #1, N = 3,603

© 2012, Prosper®

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