A new SoonerPoll finds that only 58 percent of those who attended high school in Oklahoma could pass the citizenship test that is required of all naturalized Americans, 42 percent failed the test.

““I think the results expose the fundamental lack of understanding our society has for its basic freedoms,” Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll, said.  “The point we stop understanding those fundamental freedoms is the point that we lose them.”

Respondents were asked ten randomly selected questions from the citizenship test.  Questions in the survey were open-ended, which allowed the respondent being surveyed to provide the answer from memory.

The questions asked in the survey were:

  • The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
  • What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
  • What is the economic system in the United States?
  • Who makes federal laws?
  • Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?
  • Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
  • We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
  • Who is the commander in Chief of the military?
  • Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
  • Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?

Oklahomans had the hardest time remembering two rights listed in the Declaration of Independence, but
two-thirds were able correctly to summarize the ideals of self-government found in the first three words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Only one-third could accurately give the length of terms in the U.S. House, and a mere 42 percent correctly answered what kind of economic system exists in the U.S.

Oklahomans did better with historical question, almost all Oklahomans, 88 percent, knew why the U.S. flag has 13 stripes. A solid majority, 78 percent, could also accurately name one war of the Nineteenth Century and 73 percent knew which war General Dwight D. Eisenhower served as a general.

Most Oklahomans, 61 percent, knew that Congress makes federal laws and 59 percent could name at least one of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senators.

Political label had little effect on the respondents score and there was little variation between the performance of Republicans and Democrats. Results were similar among most respondents regardless of partisan or ideological affinities or socio-economic status, in fact, higher income earners fared slightly worse.

Although most segments of society performed similarly to the overall results, further analysis reveals that some groups performed better than others. 77 percent of private school graduates passed, compared to only 57 percent of public school graduates. Of Native Americans surveyed 62 percent made a D or higher, compared to only 57 percent of Whites and 58 percent of Blacks.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Pollster, was commissioned for this survey by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.   The scientific study of 1,014 likely voters in Oklahoma who only attended high school in the state was conducted by SoonerPoll.com using live telephone interviewers between May 25 – June 24, 2010.  The study has a margin of error of ± 3 percent.

Read CapitolBeatOK’s coverage of this poll here.


  1. Actually this (58% pass) is better than I would have expected. I’ve followed (since 2006) the Intercollegiate Studies Institute test results on Civic Literacy. They test freshman and senior student at selected college to see if they (the Seniors) score better after receiving a college education. Typically over 70% fail. That test is a bit harder, with about 33 items —- but still. Average grade for both the students and public at large (random sample) is typically about 50/100 —- good solid F.

  2. This test should be administered to all citizens and passing it required to do any of the following:

    Get a US state motor vehicle license (we have treaties to cover foreign licenses).
    Get any form of ID that can be used to establish “adult” status.

    • No offense, Bryan, but you realize that would topple the economic state in Oklahoma, right? If over half the citizens couldn’t drive, you’d have a vacuum of jobs needing filled and nobody to fill them. However, I do agree it should be a requirement to vote.

  3. @Bryan, to require such a test to vote is unconstitutional. I suspect requiring such a test for motor vehicle license or establishment of “adult” status would also be found unconstitutional.

    I do understand the frustration behind your statements.

  4. Not surprising, given that 3/4 of those who voted for Bush in 2004 insisted that we DID find WMDs in Iraq and that we DID find linkage between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11…in spits of Bush & his campaign conceding repeatedly that no such linkage existed.

  5. But if you try to impose a standardization of questions as a prerequisite to vote, what happens to those who are tax paying citizens who simply can not read?


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