Special Report

21 Questions About America That Americans Can't Answer

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Why did the colonists fight the British?

Seventy-six percent of randomly chosen American citizens don’t know why the colonists fought the British in the War of Independence. The short answer is the colonists wanted self-government because they opposed King George III’s heavy taxes on everyday goods and all sorts of official documents. They were also angered by their lack of representation in London and with being compelled by the Crown to offer sleeping quarters and food to British soldiers.

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What is Benjamin Franklin famous for?

Only 24% of randomly selected Americans could answer what made Benjamin Franklin famous, with 37 percent answering incorrectly that he invented the light bulb. (Thomas Edison is widely credited with that invention, 89 years after Franklin’s death.) Although Franklin had many interests and accomplishments – he was the first U.S. postmaster general and the first U.S. Ambassador to France, among other things – he’s most famous for having been one of America’s Founding Fathers, and helping draft the Declaration of Independence.

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Why is Chicago nicknamed “the Windy City?”

Though this question isn’t on any citizenship test, it’s a common misconception that Chicago earned this nickname because of the heavy winds that blow off Lake Michigan. But Chicago isn’t even among the top 10 windiest U.S. cities, according to the Chicago Tribune. The most likely origin of the term comes from the frequent political conventions that took place in the late 1800s, where prolix politicians earned reputations for their long-winded speeches.

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Who discovered America?

It’s conventional knowledge that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, and the Italian explorer is celebrated with an annual federal holiday on the second Monday of October, commemorating his arrival to the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492, in what is now the Bahamas. But there’s conclusive evidence of Norse colonization in North America (specifically in Newfoundland) occurring hundreds of years before the arrival of Columbus. And of course what became the United States was already occupied by Native American tribes whose distant ancestors are widely believed to have arrived on the continent at least 16,000 years ago.

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What war Eisenhower was a general in?

With so much attention paid to World War II in Hollywood films and television you’d think all Americans would know that Dwight D. Eisenhower led the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe that began on D-Day, June 6, 1944. But almost one in five Americans in a 2018 national survey answered that Eisenhower had led American soldiers either in Vietnam or way back during the Civil War.

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