Special Report

21 Questions About America That Americans Can't Answer

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Is Facebook required to let people express themselves freely?

According to a recent Annenberg Public Policy Center survey, 51% of Americans believe wrongly that the Constitution compels Facebook to allow users to freely express themselves on the platform. It doesn’t. The First Amendment says Congress cannot pass laws abridging free speech or the press. There are legitimate issues about how social media companies’ police their users, and how the government should police social media companies, but the Constitution offers no free speech protections to social media subscribers.

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Can you name at least one of the three authors of The Federalist Papers?

You might remember the Federalist Papers from your high school American history class. This question is considered one of the harder ones on the U.S. naturalization test. Originally known as The Federalist, the papers were a collection of 85 articles and essays published in newspapers from October 1787 to May 1788, urging New Yorkers to ratify the new Constitution. Written under the pen-name Publius, the papers were authored by Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison.

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What are the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment?

The most recent annual Constitution Day Civics Survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center found a declining number of Americans could name any one of the five freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment, which notably does not stipulate a legal age or citizenship status for these protections. The five freedoms in which Congress cannot interfere are: speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government.

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Who invented the first car?

In 2014, Fox News conservative television personality Laura Ingraham incorrectly claimed that Americans “invented the automobile,” reflecting a common misconception among some Americans that U.S. industrialist Henry Ford deserves the credit. In fact, what Ford invented was the assembly-line method of vehicle manufacturing, which made the Ford Model T one of the best-selling cars in history. In fact, the automobile has Old World roots. In 1886, German engineer Karl Benz (yes, that Benz) claimed the first patent for an internal-combustion car.

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How much wealth does the 1% own?

A 2015 survey by Ipsos MORI found that, on average, Americans believe the wealthiest 1% own 57% of the country’s wealth. At the time, the correct answer was 37% and in 2021 it was 32.3%. Such a small number of households owning about a third of the nation’s wealth still illustrates vast wealth inequality, but many Americans overestimate this disparity. Part of the confusion may be related to a statistic about stocks: The wealthiest 10% of Americans owned a record 89% of all U.S. stocks in 2021, according to the Federal Reserve.

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