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Seeking Citizenship Through Naturalization: Immigrants Score Well on Civics Exam

May 3, 2012 – David Hahn

Seeking Citizenship through Naturalization: Immigrants Score on Civics Exam

Americans love their television game shows. From “Jeopardy” to “The Price is Right,” such shows have long been popular in the U.S.

What if there were a game show in which the questions were about citizenship? Citizens who were born here could be on one team and immigrants seeking to become naturalized U.S. citizens could be on the other.

According to a recent survey, the team of immigrants would be likely to win.

Immigrants who are applying for U.S. citizenship must pass a 10-question civics test. The test contains questions on a basic level about American history and the U.S. government system.

The percentage of immigrants going through the naturalization process who pass the test is over 90 percent. In fact, to be precise, 93 percent of the test-takers are successful.

But in an experiment conducted by researchers from the Xavier University in Cincinnati, less than two-thirds of native-born Americans passed the test. The exact percentage was 65 percent.

The experiment involved a telephone survey of 1,023 Americans who were born in this country. To pass the test, respondents had to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly.

The questions were in multiple-choice format. For example, one question asked why the colonists fought the British. The answers were slavery, taxation without representation, oil or an assassination.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, Christopher Bentley, offered an explanation for why immigrants did so well compared to native-born citizens.

“The citizenship candidates who have decided to file their application and begin their life in the United States, they want it really bad,” he said.

Source: “Americans put to shame by immigrants on sample civics test,” Gregory Korte, USA Today, 4-26-12

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