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Most Americans Don't Know their Constitutional Rights, Survey Says

Posted by Sara Cooper | Oct 17, 2023 | 0 Comments

The Annenberg Public Policy Center released out a survey about how informed the American public is on the U.S. Constitution.

These results will also be further analyzed on how the First Amendment is perceived, how the U.S. Supreme Court is viewed, and how far does knowledge go on actually knowing constitutional rights.

The First Amendment And Its Rights

5 percent of survey respondents were able to describe the first Five Amendments correctly, and 22 percent had incorrectly identified the right to bear arms or better known as the Second Amendment.

Respondents were also asked which rights were protected under the First Amendment, resulting in 77 percent recalling the freedom of speech as the sole right mentioned. Here are the five freedoms under the First Amendment and results on them being identified:

  1. Freedom of speech: 77%
  2. Freedom of religion: 40%
  3. Right to assembly: 33%
  4. Freedom of the press: 28%
  5. Right to petition the government: 9%

Knowledge of the Three Branches of Government

From the survey, about 66 percent of survey respondents are able to distinguish the differences between the three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. They are fundamental actors of the U.S. Constitution. 10 percent could only recall 2 out of 3 branches, and 17 percent could not recall any of the branches.

Perceptions Of The Supreme Court's Performance

There was a divided response on the attitudes towards the Supreme Court, with 51 percent of respondents having expressed disappointment or frustration towards the court's direction, with 49 percent approving them.

Decision-making from the court and the public's knowledge was also asked in the survey. 22 percent had answered correctly on unanimous voting of the justices with a 9-0 or 8-1 vote.

35 percent was the average estimate from most respondents in terms of how often unanimous voting happened for rulings from the Supreme Court, revealing how public awareness lacks in legal decisions and their impacts.  

Many had mentioned how the court is influenced by their own political ideologies, showing how Americans are truly concerned with this institution. The perception of the Supreme Court has become a prime topic to constituents currently.

First Amendment Rights And Social Media

53 percent of respondents, “Believed that the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech obligates Facebook to allow all Americans to freely express themselves on its platform,” according to TPR Teaching. Half of the respondents (47%) disagreed with this.

The Role Of Education In Government and Constitutional Knowledge

59 percent of respondents this year have had received at least some high school education including a civics or government course that would focus on the Constitution. 33 percent of those who have gotten some college education have had taken a course on American government.

The Overall Layout

The Annenberg Public Policy Center's 2023 Civics Study provides a revealing look at the understanding of the U.S. Constitution among adults in the United States.

The results underscore the importance of civic education in fostering a thorough understanding of the Constitution, the structure of government, and the rights it confers, according to TPR Teaching.

Constitutional rights and social media have now intersected as a form of public discourse on political knowledge and critical overlap.

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