238 years later, how is Independence going?

July 04, 2014, 2:22 PM GMT+0

Many Americans think we are less free today than we were when the Founding Fathers were alive

When the Founding Fathers laid down the framework for the United States, it was one of the only countries on earth that enshrined the rights of ordinary people, provided they were not slaves. Many of the rights were now take for granted were first articulated and implemented in the United States' first years of existence.

Asked whether Americans today are more or less free than they were at the dawn of the country, the public are evenly divided: 38% say Americans have more freedom today, and 38% say they have less. 12% say it is about the same.

There is a noticeable partisan split. Most Democrats (55%) say that Americans today are freer than they were over two centuries ago. 46% of Independents and 56% of Republicans, however, say that Americans today are less free than they were in the era of the founding fathers. There is a similar, but less dramatic split between blacks and whites.

American history knowledge

When Americans are asked which famous phrase comes from which of the three seminal texts of American history – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address – the public generally knows what they're talking about.

Most Americans (57%) know that it was in the Declaration of Independence that Thomas Jefferson held certain truths to be self-evident. 53% also know that it was in the Constitution that we the People tried to form a more perfect Union. Interestingly, however, the Gettysburg address is both the best known and the source of the greatest confusion. 71% of Americans know that it begins with 'Four score and seven years ago...' but only 28% knew that it ended with 'government of the people, by the people, for the people'. 42% of Americans thought that this phrase was from the Declaration of Independence, and 20% thought it was from the Constitution.

Overall, knowledge of the Declaration of Independence and the War is quite good. 47% knew that it was King George III on the British throne during the war, and 64% knew that Thomas Jefferson was the man who wrote the Declaration. Most people also know that the first battle was at Lexington and Concord (51%), while the last battle was at Yorktown (46%).

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty