On Saturday evening’s episode of “Watters’ World” on the Fox News Channel, in honor of the Independence Day holiday, host Jesse Watters aired a remarkable video of him asking basic U.S. citizenship test questions to college students at Arizona State University. It’s fair to say most of these students wouldn’t pass the citizenship exam, but how well would you perform?
Among the questions asked to the students were:
1. How many senators are there?
“Is it seven or 12?” one student said.
“I know this,” another student said. “50.”
2. What month is the presidential election?
“December,” one student said.
“January,” replied another.
“April,” guessed another.
“March,” a student said, to which Watters replied, “It’s in the fall.”
“August,” the same student guessed again.
“August is the summer,” Watters said while laughing.
3. What year did America declare its independence?
“1984,” one student guessed.
“You’re way off,” Watters replied.
“1884,” the student then guessed.
To pass the U.S. citizenship exam, applicants must correctly answer at least 60 percent of up to 10 civics and government questions asked by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer, who chooses from a list of 100 questions. All 100 questions are provided by USCIS on its website, along with the answers.
This writer carefully searched the full list of questions and found the following five to be the most likely to trip up test takers: (1) “How many amendments does the Constitution have?”; (2) “If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?”; (3) “The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.”; (4) “What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?” (5) “Who was President during World War I?”
If you think those questions aren’t difficult, then the rest of the exam — which features questions such as asking people to name the current president and where the capital of the United States is — will look even easier, making the college students’ responses in the “Watters’ World” video appear even more pathetic.
USCIS reports the national pass rate as of September 2016 for the civics and history exam is 91 percent, but polling has shown American citizens perform worse than those applying for citizenship.
A 2016 Ipsos Public Affairs poll found just two-thirds of 2,000 respondents, all of whom self-identified as American citizens, could name the current speaker of the House of Representatives. Only one-third knew Benjamin Franklin once served as an important diplomat. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed answered all five of the randomly selected questions asked to them.
Interestingly, Republicans scored higher than Democrats and independents. Forty percent of Republicans answered all five of their questions correctly; only 35 percent of independents and 33 percent of Democrats earned a perfect score, according to a report by USA Today.