MORGAN ZEGERS: Survey says one in six Americans cannot name a single branch of government

The 2023 results of an annually conducted survey found that one in six Americans are unable to name a single branch of the United States government, while 20% could not name any rights protected under the First Amendment.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted its yearly civics study, surveying 1,482 U.S. adults to get a sample of American’s basic understanding of the U.S. government.

The policy center writes, “Since 2013, the civics knowledge survey has been conducted annually for Constitution Day (Sept. 17) as the Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey.” This year, the survey found that “Many Americans do not know what rights are protected under the First Amendment and a substantial number cannot name all three branches of government.”

The survey first asked respondents to name the three branches of the government in the United States —judicial, legislative, and executive — but only 66% percent were able to correctly identify all three. 17%, the second largest block of respondents, could not name any branches, while 10% could name two, and 7% could name one.

Image: Annenberg Constitution Day Survey

In 2022, the survey found that just 47% of respondents could accurately name all three branches of government.

2023 survey participants were also asked to list the five rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, only 5% of whom could correctly identify all five, while 30% could correctly name three or four of the rights.

77% accurately named the freedom of speech, 40% said the freedom of religion, 33% named the right to assembly, 28% said the freedom of the press, and 9% answered the right to petition the government.

“Nearly half of those surveyed (46%) could name one or two First Amendment rights, and 20% could not correctly name any,” the policy center said while noting that “A surprisingly large number of respondents, over 1 in 5 (22%), replied by listing the right to bear arms, which is a right under the Second Amendment, not the First. We hypothesize that, seeing five empty text boxes, web panelists may have called to mind any other right with which they are familiar.”

“It is worrisome that one in six U.S. adults cannot name any of the branches of government and that only 1 in 20 can name all five freedoms protected by the First Amendment,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and director of the survey, said. “One is unlikely to cherish or work to protect freedoms one does not know one has and will have trouble holding elected and unelected leaders accountable if one does not understand the nature and prerogatives of each branch and the ways in which the power of each is kept in check.”

This piece first appeared at TPUSA.

Image: Title: Capitol


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