November 22, 2013

Where were you when JFK was shot? Only 28.9% of Americans can answer that


Less than one-third of Americans were of age to recall personal memories from the day JFK was shot.

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was shot while riding in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. While news from the event rippled across America, it also seared into the American psyche. Today, virtually all Americans old enough to remember Nov. 22, 1963, still remember it vividly.EventMemories

According to a September 2011 Pew Research survey, 95% of Americans born in 1955 or earlier said they could recall exactly where they were or what they were doing when Kennedy was killed. That compares with 81% of adults asked in 2011 who remember those details when Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and 72% when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in 1968, according to the same survey. The only other event that weighed on American consciousness to such an extent was the 9/11 terrorist attacks (97%). (Survey questions were filtered to people who were at least eight years of age at the time of each historical event.)

Yet, while memories of JFK’s assassination tend to linger in individuals, the number of people bearing those memories is inevitably declining. As of July 2012, 90.63 million people in the U.S. – or 28.9% of the total population – were of an age in 1963 to be able to retrieve a personal memory. (According to development psychologists, the typical age from which an adult can retrieve a personal memory is between 3 and 4 years old.)

JFK stands out among presidents, in part because he was a cultural phenomenon in his time and because he remains popular today. Asked how Kennedy will go down in history, 74% of Americans today said Kennedy will be remembered as an outstanding or above average president, the highest rating among the 11 most recent presidents.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: News Interest

  1. is an associate digital producer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Ron Ransom2 years ago

    I was in Anchorage Alaska in the Air Force, approximately 40% below zero…we went on full base alert…just a little over a year later,I had gotten my discharge and decided to stay in Alaska because of a good job a Sunrise bakery and good Friday 1964..what is now known as the great quake hit Anchorage and effected many others areas…president Kennedy will live in infamy through my mind..peace

  2. Mike W.2 years ago

    I was sitting in a 6th grade classroom at South Newton Elementary School in Newton, NC. The intercom came on with the radio coming over the system. I can’t remember if we were sent home but I remember my teacher crying.

  3. Valerie W.2 years ago

    I was 7 and I remember it like it was yesterday.
    In my second grade class, Our teacher came in with a radio, saying she had very bad news.
    When I got home, my parents were crying.
    I remember news of the assassination, along with President Kennedy’s funeral going on for days.
    My mother told me about how his accused killer, Oswald, was killed on national TV, and how she thought it was a conspiracy.
    I did remember seeing Kennedy alive previously on news broadcasts.
    I knew everyone was very sad, and I was also sad, and still am.

  4. WP3 years ago

    I wasn’t born yet, but my parents remember watching the TV for 3 days following the assassination.

  5. allen courts4 years ago

    On a bus going to New Orleans .Just left someplace in Mississipi

  6. Terry Cronis4 years ago

    Aboard the helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima, for the 3rd
    Battallion, 3rd Marine Regiment , it was Nov. 23rd in the South China Sea. Standing watch as Officer of the Day, I
    received a message from the ship’s communications officer of the death of our Commander in Chief. I carried the news to the battallion commander and, as he instructed, to all of the marines in their various sleeping compartments. Seeing the reactions of hundreds of men, I was deeply moved, as I am to this day. The vivid reactions are evident today when veterans recall their service, their readiness and pride in defending the country in that time of grief, sorrow, and uncertainty. Semper Fi.

  7. DOUGLAS J KIRKHAM4 years ago

    I was a month and 2 days old then. All I know is what has been said already.

  8. Carol fiorella4 years ago

    I was 12 yrs old. I was home from school sick that day, laying on the couch and saw the news flash.
    I was ok, until I saw every one crying and I started crying too.
    I really had no idea what was happening, I was just caught in the moment and felt all the turmoil projected.
    The only good thing I remember that day, is when my dad came home…

  9. Sandy4 years ago

    I was in 3rd grade when President Kennedy was shot. I attended a small neighborhood school in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Our principal came into our classroom, and this is what she said: “About one hour ago, our President of the United States, President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas. He died from the gunshot wounds a little after 1PM, and we are now going home.” My whole class gasped in unison;we were stunned. Then we quietly packed everything up, and left the school. My friends and I walked home in complete & utter silence. When I arrived home, my mother was already there, sitting in front of the TV sobbing. That’s when it really hit me, that something tragically momentous had happened. Everyone was in mourning for many days following. It was just like losing a close family member. How can anyone forget that awful day?

  10. Packard Day4 years ago

    If anyone wishes to get a real laugh about how little one of the millennials or X-generation kids know about JFK; casually ask one of them if they know which president became president after the 1963 assassination. Their vacuous answers will sober even the most stalwart of JFK’s baby boomer sycophants.

    Like Vietnam and Woodstock, I suspect all of the JFK la la palooza we are now hearing these days is a generational phenomena. Alas, this too shall pass.