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Most Americans can’t locate Niagara Falls or Grand Canyon on a map, poll finds

Most Americans can’t locate Niagara Falls or Grand Canyon on a map, poll finds
A new poll has found that even though most Americans are proud of their geographic knowledge, fewer than half know where the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls are. Some even thought the falls were in Iceland.

The poll, published on Friday, found that, by and large, Americans are confident in their handle on geography. Of the respondents, 64% reckoned they could locate some famous American landmarks, but few were correct. Just 38% knew that the Grand Canyon – one of the seven ‘Wonders of the Natural World’ – is located in Arizona, while only 32% knew that the Niagara Falls tumbled over the border between Ontario, Canada, and New York.

Bizarrely, 22% thought the falls were located in Iceland, while 18% believed Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest is actually in Ireland – a margin of error of nearly 4,000 miles.

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Even more bizarre is the fact that the poll wasn’t conducted on behalf of an educational organization or a geographic foundation, but for Charmin, the toilet paper company. As such, the poll also asked a number of questions about sustainability and the environment, to promote the company’s apparent interest in the climate.

Such polls are nothing new. Back when the US and Iran nearly came to open conflict following the US’ assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani last year, a Morning Consult poll found that less than a quarter of registered voters could locate Iran on a map. As the US geared up in 2002 to invade Iraq, fewer than one in five young adults could find the country. And, a shocking 11% couldn’t even pinpoint the US on a map of the world.

Occupying much of an entire continent, the US is a massive nation, and its citizens travel abroad much less frequently than their foreign counterparts. Only a third own valid passports, and this figure drops among those who’ve attained lower education levels. This, coupled with the fact that most states don’t require geography courses in middle or high schools, has been cited as a reason for Americans’ patchy knowledge of the world.

Nevertheless, the latest poll results were mocked online, with Chen Weihua of the state-owned China Daily newspaper leading the charge. Good news for Washington politicians,” he declared, claiming the poll pointed to an electorate that was “easy to manipulate.”

“Some like to cite polls of US public opinion about China,” he said in a follow-up tweet. “But when most of the public don’t know where are Grand Canyon & Niagara Falls, their views about China won’t be remotely informed/intelligent.”

“Well said, as you know mostly what we vote on is where the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls are,” one American commenter sarcastically shot back.

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