1 in 5 Americans can't find the U.S. on a map, is it true?

Can anyone site proof for this information? I haven't been able to find the statistic anywhere credible.

19 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    See quotes below about statistics. But first,

    In 2006, the National Geographic Society interviewed 510 young Americans -- people aged 18 to 24 -- about geography. Interviewers handed people a blank map of the world and asked them to identify various countries. "Nearly all (94 percent) young Americans can find the United States on the world map, and Canada (92 percent) and Mexico (88 percent) are nearly as familiar," the survey found.

    So most Americans, it turns out, can find America on the map. They can find Canada and Mexico and even the Gulf of Mexico. You have to ask what's done more damage to the nation's image: Upton's bad answer, or the pageant's flawed question, which has erroneously convinced millions across the globe that Americans don't know their own country?

    Granted, there are lots of things Americans don't know about the world. In the National Geographic survey, most respondents couldn't find the United Kingdom, Egypt, and Indonesia on a world map, and more than 60 percent couldn't find Iraq on a map of the Middle East. But, are these numbers so bad?

    Remember, people in the survey were trying to place countries on unlabeled maps. That is, they were the sort of maps nobody ever uses, maps that, indeed, run contrary to the very aim of cartography. A map is a reference object; we make maps precisely so that we don't have to memorize where things are, so that we can, instead, look up where things are.

    ***98% of all statistics are made up. ~Author Unknown

    ***There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up. ~Rex Stout, Death of a Doxy

    ***The average human has one breast and one testicle. ~Des McHale

  • 1 decade ago

    I looked around for this statistic, but I believe it's bogus. How do you know that this 1 in 5 doesn't include children under the age of 2 or those who are blind or otherwise disabled?

    It is highly unlikely that 20% of Americans who have attended more than a year of kindergarten would be unable to find the U.S. on a map.

  • 4 years ago

    Locate America

  • 1 decade ago

    There was an AOL article a few weeks ago where people were asked to find the USA on a satellite picture of the world, and very few were able. I couldn't find the exact article. However, there are plenty to sort through with a google of "geography knowledge USA".

    One link that showed similar lack of knowledge, but not the exact statistic, was:


  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 4 years ago

    It must be true ... I read it on the Internet! ;-)

    Poll: 73 Percent Of Americans Unable To Locate America On Map Of AmericaPosted on May 23, 2014


  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I find that hard to believe. Find Sweden on the map, maybe, but everybody knows what the USA looks like. That little Florida dimple and the Gulf of Mexico give it away. Besides, there are LABELS on a map, aren't there?

  • 1 decade ago

    Similarly to each of the contributors who posted before I started answering your question, I cannot find a reference for you, but, it is actually quite likely to be even higher than 1 in 5 when you accept the truth that everyone who lives on the continents of North and South America are indeed Americans, and that those who live in vastly underdeveloped Latinoamerican countries have so little access to maps that asking them to read a map is pretty much the same as asking them to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

    Just because someone immigrated from Bolivia to the USofA does not mean that he or she used a map to get here.

    So, my advice would be to not worry about such a silly statistic like that, even if it is true.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think it was 20% of 8th graders, which is 1 in 5, but of a sample other than the general population.

  • 1 decade ago

    I remember getting those types of questions for pollers in High School - I would sometimes answer them incorrectly on purpose. Besides, people that will eventually end up working as lawn mowers and fast food employees don't really need to know geography - they only need to know to vote Democratic. :)

  • 1 decade ago

    National Geographic has a totally different number. Read the blog before spending much time with NatGeo report.

    63.2% of all statistics are made up, inclduing this one.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.