Poll shows distressing ignorance of U.S. democracy’s birth

Although he’s given credit for the assertion, Thomas Jefferson never actually said “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

Maybe he knew better. The country has now survived 241 years, most of them with a sizeable percentage of the population having no clue about the origins of the nation.

Once again this year, the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows a distressing lack of knowledge among some of our fellow citizens, throwing into some doubt why we should continue to care about what they have to say on any subject.

Only 77 percent of the Americans surveyed can tell you from whom the United States declared its independence in 1776. Fifteen percent were unsure and 8 percent mentioned another country.

The Midwest doesn’t look good in the poll, either. Only 66 percent of those surveyed in the heartland know that the United States declared its independence in 1776 — the worst of any region.

The South — at 75 percent — was the weakest region in answering the country question, but the ignorance was pretty well spread across the land.

Only 67 percent of households making under $50,000 could name — spoiler alert! — Great Britain. Only 53 percent of African-Americans could.

It’s a little disappointing, then, that Marist College didn’t cross-reference its findings with its other poll today: an assessment of trust in democratic institutions.

It showed that we don’t have a lot.

Fifty-eight percent don’t have much trust in the media, 68 percent don’t have much trust in Congress, 61 percent don’t have much trust in the Trump administration and 61 percent have no or little trust in opinion polls.

Forty-two percent of Republicans think there’s too much freedom of the press.

They should’ve seen what it was like under King George III. Not that the name rings a bell with many of them, mind you.