Massachusetts Residents Score a ‘D’ in Poll Based on U.S. Citizenship Test

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Result is just above 60 percent required to pass the test

BOSTON – When asked a series of questions about how the federal government works that are based on the U.S. citizenship test, Massachusetts residents answered on average 63 percent of them correctly, earning a collective grade of “D” in a poll commissioned by Pioneer Institute and conducted by Emerson College Polling.

The result is just over the 60 percent score required to pass the actual citizenship test.

“When combined with the performance of students on national civics testing, the results of this poll confirm that efforts to improve civics education in our public schools are well founded,” said Jamie Gass, who directs Pioneer’s Center for School Reform.

The questions most often answered correctly were one in which respondents were given a list of places and asked which is a U.S. territory, and one about the month in which federal elections are held. Eighty-five percent identified Puerto Rico as a territory, and 76 percent knew federal elections are held in November.

Both questions that yielded the lowest percentage of correct answers involved U.S. senators. Only 52 percent knew the Senate has 100 members, while 55 percent knew that a senator’s term is six years.

Those over age 65 did best in the poll, getting 75 percent of the questions right. They were followed by ages 55-64 at 68 percent, ages 45-54 at 65 percent, ages 18-24 at 58 percent, and ages 35-44 at 55 percent. Those ages 25-34 scored lowest at 52 percent.

The percentage of correct answers was strongly correlated with both educational attainment and the number of civics classes respondents took in middle or high school.

Independent and unaffiliated voters scored best, getting 69 percent correct. They were followed by Democrats and Republicans, each at 62 percent. Those not registered to vote gave the correct answer 46 percent of the time.

Emerson College Polling interviewed 1,000 Massachusetts residents via an online panel on September 21 and 22, 2023. The poll’s margin of error is + / – 3 percent in 19 of 20 cases.