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Americans' Perspective of Abraham Lincoln

How is it that 2/3 of Americans say they know “little to nothing” about arguably the most influential person in our country’s history, and one of the most famous and featured people of all time, President Abraham Lincoln?

That’s one of the results we found important, and surprising, in our study titled “Americans’ Perceptions of Abraham Lincoln” we’re releasing today about the 16th President of the United States. In conjunction with our work on the film LINCOLN, we wanted to understand more about the American people’s knowledge and perceptions of a man who many say is only surpassed by Jesus of Nazareth as the most written-about person of all time. So, just how important is Abraham Lincoln to Americans and the conversation about our national character today? Consider these findings from our report:

  • Most Americans believe Abraham Lincoln is the best and most influential president in U.S. history, and unprompted 1/3 listed him as the historical figure they most admire.
  • 83% of Americans think the Emancipation Proclamation declared slavery illegal nationwide. (This is false: The Proclamation applied in only ten states that were still in rebellion in 1863, and thus did not cover the nearly 500,000 slaves in the slave-holding border states - Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland or Delaware - which were Union states.)
  • Abraham Lincoln would’ve won the 2012 election, beating both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney; and 40% still think he was a Democrat. (Psst: He was a Republican!)
  • Most Americans believe Abraham Lincoln would’ve supported government assistance programs like welfare and food stamps, but would’ve opposed same-sex marriage or looser immigration laws.
  • 87% think it’s important for leaders today to look to Abraham Lincoln for guidance when making important decisions.

Download the full report here! OK, so I guess the answer is, very important. While Americans think the lessons from his presidency and legacy are critical to understand, many get some of the easy answers about him, wrong. So we decided to hit the road with our Social Action campaign, and work with Steven Spielberg and Disney to bring the LINCOLN (the film) and related educational materials to high schools and towns across the country. We hope to foster some great discussion, debates and ultimately greater understanding about one of the most important and influential people in American history, Abraham Lincoln, and how his legacy lives on today. See the Social Action campaign for LINCOLN press release here. - Chad Boettcher, Executive Vice President, Social Action & Advocacy Email Chad at reelimpact@participantmedia.com or follow him @chadboettcher

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Participant MediaAbout Participant Media

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, Participant Media’s (www.participantmedia.com) content combines the power of a good story well told with opportunities for real world impact and awareness around the most pressing global issues of our time. As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 40 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake—all aimed at entertainment that inspires social awareness and engaging audiences to participate in positive social change. Participant’s content and social impact mandate speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing over 2 billion consumers who are compelled to make impactful content a priority focus. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant is positioned uniquely within the industry to engage a rapidly growing audience while bringing global awareness and action to today’s most vital issues.

Participant’s more than 80 films, including Spotlight, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 56 Academy Award® nominations and 12 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Best Foreign Language Film for A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital entertainment division, SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com), is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting digital content including such widely popular series as Kid President and The Science of Happiness and reaches an audience of nearly 9 million fans. Follow Participant Media on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram. Follow SoulPancake on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.