Poll: 64 Percent of Americans Cannot Identify All Three Branches Of Government

500px-Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_StatesIn the wake of Constitution Day, there is a truly depressing survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center that found that 227 years after the signing of the Constitution only 36 percent of Americans can actually name the three branches of government. Thus, 64 percent of Americans cannot name the three parts of our tripartite system.

The same rough percentage (62 percent) was unaware that the GOP controlled the House of Representatives and 17 percent actually thought that the Democrats were in control. The same percentage — only 38 percent — knew that Democrats controlled the Senate. Some 20 percent thought that the GOP controlled the Senate.

The situation is even worse with regard to the details of Article I. Only roughly a quarter knew that it took two-thirds of a majority of both houses to override a presidential veto (27 percent).

Only 15 percent could identify the Chief Justice of the United States while, in a truly depressing comparison, 27 percent knew Randy Jackson was a judge on American Idol.

That is a chilling result 227 years after the signing of Constitution, but that is not likely to concern most citizens since only 13 percent knew the Constitution was signed in 1787.

As discussed earlier, the problem is not unique to the United States as similar surveys in Germany and England have shown.

This is the result of years of neglect of the civics training in our country from elementary high schools. We need a return to basics in our schools, including our constitutional history and values. Americans are fiercely proud of their country but many know relatively little of the key characteristics of our system or its history — the very thing and defines and binds us as a people.

Source: Washington Post

488 thoughts on “Poll: 64 Percent of Americans Cannot Identify All Three Branches Of Government”

  1. Nick,
    I don’t care how well-meaning their intentions; they are absolutely ignorant of human nature. They make the most egregious of errors in believing human nature is an intellect problem. The thing we can be certain of is the more letters after one’s name, the more creative one’s sinful nature will manifest itself.

  2. Of my 7 questions, the one that I’m really interested in getting an answer on is the last: “If you already have a government designed on the principle of unalienable rights, then WHY would you ever want to change that government so that nothing you have is unalienable?”

    How badly must you hate your freedom to be willing to enslave yourself. I don’t get it.

  3. Progressives want to “Get off the grid” and go back to choo choo trains. “Forward to the 1930’s!!”

  4. Paul,
    Progressivism is such an oxymoron given where it leaves it’s victims.This regression into tyranny is so predictable but one has to acknowledge relevant world history is more than 150 years old in order to see it. The APUSH article I posted a day or two ago really demonstrates the significance of that point.

  5. Olly, Olly, Olly “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” What could possibly be wrong w/ that inclusive and FAAAAIR philosophy. And, there should be no late night “incorrections” to that aforementioned quote. I’ve said it mockingly many times.

  6. Nick,
    I have nothing wrong with equal outcome as long as rights aren’t infringed in the process. That’s fair isn’t it? 🙂

  7. Jon,

    Didn’t know you were in need of a middleman to say when you should be disturbed or not or both. I’m learning the rules slowly, I see others can tell the blog what to do or not and you’re fine with it. I got it now.

  8. Anonymously yours, you have once again had a comment deleted. You have been repeatedly asked to stop the personal attacks. If you refuse to comply with our civility rule, we will have to suspend additional comments.

    1. Nick Spinelli wrote: “Bears 17 Jets 13, beginning of 2nd half.”

      But that’s not fair! It is not equal outcome. We had better fix our Constitution to correct this problem.

    1. Olly – the revisionists are trying just as hard as they can to white-out the Age of Reason. There are now two high schools whose mission statement is social justice. Not knowledge. Social justice. Fairness. I cringe to think what grading is going to be like for the special snowflakes.

  9. Annie,
    Why should any critical-thinking head explode? This is a very well written essay that is meaningless to anyone that understands and respects the principles this nation was founded on. The dead giveaway is the call for equal outcome. The amendment process points to the humility of the framers and the effort to marginalize their wisdom is clearly the hallmark of the Progressive movement.

    What gives me peace is knowing that no amount of revisionist theory will ever be able to eliminate the Age of Enlightenment. 🙂

  10. September 19, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Atiba R. Ellis, Associate Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law, @atibaellis. This post is part of our 2014 Constitution Day symposium.
    On September 17, 1787, the framers signed the U.S. Constitution. The document they approved 227 years ago is a work of genius as it provided a democratic republic that has endured economic turmoil, mass insurrection, and disasters of various sorts — forces that have toppled other democracies.  The U.S. Constitution, the oldest enduring written constitution in the world today, has endured and preserved democracy based upon rule of law.
    Although one might point to the advantages and disadvantages of federalism, the dynamics of enumerated powers, or the political compromises that undergird separation of powers as powerful tactics the Constitution deploys, it is not in any of these mechanisms where the genius of the Constitution lies. Its true genius is its mechanism to allow we the people to reinvent our democracy as our times and ethics demand. It is this power of reinvention that has allowed our constitution to endure and matter to the world. 
    This power of democratic transition is best illustrated in the way our Constitution has been reinvented, over time, from a document that enshrined inequality to one that strives for equality. The Constitution of 1787 reflected and implemented a social theory we would not recognize or sanction today. The Constitution endorsed states’ rights (though this name would not be invented until a century later to protect slavery) and left it to the states to structure the social relations of the nation. Thus, despite a Bill of Rights that protected the rights of citizens, the Constitution allowed the chattel slavery of Africans to endure in the United States when it was being abolished in other parts of the world. The Constitution allowed women to be treated as property. Despite our hymns to constitutional genius, the lived experience of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was rooted in inequality.
    To focus merely on the genius of the original document (and as a consequence, elevate those times and those founders) is to fixate on an originalism that suffered subordination and endorsed a hierarchy. And, as our experience with the Civil War illustrates, the country came within a hair’s breath of being dismantled by faction and racism due to an unwillingness to recreate the United States.
    Yet our Constitution endures because it has embedded within it mechanisms by which our evolving notions of equality and justice may receive constitutional protection from the tyranny of caste and status. Though volumes have been written on this topic, it is worth remembering in our celebration of the Constitution that the amendment process and the wisdom of legislators and judges who sought to make manifest the idea of equality helped to preserve the Union at its most imperiled points. One needs only recount the work of Reconstruction, the long march from segregation to Civil Rights, the movement towards women’s equality, and our modern day same-sex marriage cases to see how the long arc of equality has progressed. And all of these changes have been enabled through an American constitutionalism that, in the words of Harper v. Virginia, is not shackled to the political theory of a particular era.
    Though we can rejoice over this “living constitutionalism,” we must remember that the work is far from over.  Though equality is a well-settled idea in constitutional jurisprudence and on the face of our laws, its meaning on a day to day level is still hotly contested.  Though formal equality as between races and genders is a given in American constitutionalism, the data and anecdotes that report on the inequality of the American lived experience illustrate how much farther our idea of equality needs to go. Police violence that tends to kill disproportionately men of color, the enduring poverty in this country that disproportionately burdens communities of color, domestic violence and income inequality that elevates the status of men over women, all harkens back to that dated nineteenth century inequality.  There are deep divisions of inequality that still must be addressed.
    So we must ask:  how should the American Constitution be reinvented for the struggles of the twenty-first century?  I have argued here on this blog and in my forthcoming scholarship that many of these dilemmas lay at the intersection of racial status and economic class.  The dilemmas of Ferguson, for example, illustrate how this structural inequality has a racial dimension and a class dimension, which creates and reinforces a political, economic, and social underclass in our society.  We must look at this question squarely.  How we can rest with our modern conception of formal equality when it sanctions such enduring inequality? 
    The Reconstruction Amendments, the post-Reconstruction right to vote amendments, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and Windsor v. United States, reinvented equality and subverted hierarchies in relation to racial, gender, and sexual-orientation identities. Perhaps we can, in our lifetimes, re-invent our Constitution to address the subordination that lies at the intersection of race and poverty.
    Tags: Civil rights, Economic inequality, Supreme Court, Racial justice, Constitutional Interpretation and Change, Equality and Liberty, 2014 Constitution Day symposium, Atiba R. Ellis, Guest Post, Harper v. Virginia, Reconstruction

  11. JT is enjoying watching his resurgent Bears. Please give him a break, @ least until the game is over. Thanks for all your anticipated cooperation.

  12. You know Byron,,

    You have the ability to disagree… And I have no issue with that, you don’t attack, which I respect.

  13. That may be so Byron, when it pertains to the Declaration, but the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Amendments are Positive Law.

    1. Annie wrote: “That may be so Byron, when it pertains to the Declaration, but the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Amendments are Positive Law.”

      The Declaration of Independence is positive law too, but such a statement isn’t meaningful concerning positive law THEORY. Natural Law THEORY says that positive law should recognize and conform to natural laws. Natural Law Theory focuses upon the utility and merit of laws to effect a common good. Positive Law Theory ignores natural laws and says that the force of law comes from the government ruler. Therefore, according to Positive Law Theory, a dictatorship might very well be reasoned to be the best form of government. Is that the kind of government you want?

      1. Positive Law comes from people positing what the law should be. The Sovereign is the people. Hence Popular Sovereignty. You still don’t know this or you wish to misrepresent, whatever. I find you to be a dishonest debater when you get your hackles up.

        1. Annie wrote: “I find you to be a dishonest debater when you get your hackles up.”

          Okay, Annie. If you find me to be dishonest, then there are no grounds for us to discuss anything. I will leave you to your bloviating.

      2. david – the Declaration of Independence is not Positive Law, It is a list of reasons for Independence. There are no laws in it.

        1. Paul Schulte wrote: “… the Declaration of Independence is not Positive Law, It is a list of reasons for Independence. There are no laws in it.”

          What gives you that perspective, Paul?

          The United States Code includes the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution. In the USC Annotated, they are listed under the heading “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.” As such, they overrule all other laws that come after them. The Statutes at Large, which contain all our positive laws and actions of Congress, also include the text of the Declaration of Independence because it is law.

          The DOI was the legislation that changed the colonies into States. It was an action (Act) of the second Continental Congress, voted upon and enacted into law the same way that the Constitution was. It was voted upon by the legislature and duly ratified unanimously by the thirteen united States of America. There were 56 delegates who signed it. The Constitution had only 39 of its 55 delegates sign it. Considering the authority that the DOI granted to the territories to become States, it is perhaps the greatest piece of legislation ever passed by Congress. It granted them legal authority to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, and establish Commerce.

          Read the last paragraph of the DOI, and tell me how this is not positive law:

          We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

          1. david – there is not one law mentioned in the DOI. It claims the powers to make laws but makes not laws.

            1. Paul Schulte wrote: “there is not one law mentioned in the DOI”

              I am perplexed by your statement. Please let me ask the following questions to ascertain your thought process:

              1. Did the colonies have laws governing them before the DOI?

              2. Did Congress pass laws before the DOI?

              3. Do you consider the U.S. Constitution to be law?

              4. Do you consider the constitutions of each of the States that existed prior to the U.S. Constitution to be laws?

              5. Under what legal authority did the colonies become States?

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