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On Constitution Day, Americans Know Little About Government

Ben Smith Contributor

Wednesday is Constitution Day and across the country, Americans shockingly know very little about the document that founded the United States or the government it set up. The survey, conducted by The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, asked 1,416 Americans questions concerning basic civic questions, which few of the respondents knew how to answer.

The results from the survey were dismal.  According to published reports on the center’s website, only 36% of the respondents could name all three branches of government: the executive, legislative and judicial. Even more depressing, only 35% could name just one of the three branches.

In an odd twist, one-in-five Americans believe that a split decision in the Supreme Court (5-4) goes back to Congress for a vote. Continuing with the trend that Americans do not know who is in power, with 44% saying they did not who is in control of the House of Representatives with another 38% correctly identifying Republicans. The 44% who do not know is a 16% jump from the center’s 2011 percentage of 27%.

Many of these facts are knowledge taught in high school classes as basic tenets of a civics or history class. The fact that American do not know these basic facts or ideas is concerning and could explain some of the recent poll drops in congressional approval, at 13%, as well as trust in the government’s three branches each, which has been going down historically.