Americans Should Be Embarrassed

The Annenberg Civics Knowledge Survey, conducted since 2006, focuses on the American public’s understanding of the Constitution of the United States. Since 2013, the civics knowledge survey has been conducted annually for Constitution Day (Sept. 17) as the Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey.

The latest results from the 2021 survey, while encouraging, are also, in my opinion, quite embarrassing. Here are some of the highlights:

  • only 56% of Americans were capable of naming all three branches of government. In 2006, just 33% of respondents could accurately say the three branches. Yes, we got better, but we are still woefully uninformed.
  • asked to name the five rights protected by the First Amendment:
    • 74% correctly stated that the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech.
    • 56% knew it also protects the freedom of religion
    • 50% knew it protects the freedom of the press
    • only 30% knew it protects the right to assembly
    • and only 20% knew it protects the right to petition
  • 61% incorrectly stated that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech means Facebook must permit all users to freely express themselves on their website.
    • this is further broken down as follows: 66% of conservatives, 61% of moderates, and 55% of liberals have this belief about Facebook
  • 51% correctly said that the Supreme Court gets the final say on whether something the president does is constitutional or not.
  • 35% knew how long the term of office is for a senator while 36% knew what it was for a representative
  • Asked what it means when the Supreme Court rules 5-4 in a case:
    • 61% correctly chose “the decision is the law and needs to be followed.”
    • 19% incorrectly said “the decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration”
    • 15% incorrectly said “the decision is sent back to the federal court of appeals to be decided there”

So what does all this mean?

To me, it means that a lot of people who are out there shouting with a megaphone on social media about what’s wrong with our country, don’t know much about our country.

So how can they be expected to make an informed opinion?

It also means that many of the people listening to such a person also likely don’t know what’s right, so they just blindly jump on the bandwagon.

It’s a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

And for once, I think I have a solution, and it’s a fairly easy one.

Onc eyou reach the age of 18, and every five years after that, all U.S. citiznes must take the U.S, Citizenship test. If you don’t pass, then you must read 10 posts on Borden’s blog and post a comment on each one. Once you do that, you are eligible to take the test again.

If that’s not incentive enough to pass the test the first time, I don’t know what would be…


*image from Democracy Chronicles

60 thoughts on “Americans Should Be Embarrassed

  1. I’d be surprised if we didn’t show similar levels of ignorance of our own laws, too. Social media has made it easy for the ill-informed to spread their stupidity and find a large audience of the equally dim witted.

    You’re a hard taskmaster, though: some of us read this stuff without coercion, or the need to pass a test!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m guessing it’s fairly universal. Although it’s likely that the people who do best on such tests are the newest citizens to the country.

      and I am always amazed that people read my blog without needing an incentive to do so… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was my son-in-law’s tutor when he became a dual us/aussie citizen.(fingers crossed and a lot of trust). he knew it all before long, mostly due to his own studying, and was amazed how little many natural born Americans knew when he talked about it with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe we should all (have to) take a test like that periodically, kind of like a driver’s test. Could be seen as a refresher to remind us how things really work, not how we perform them in practice or how we want them to be or how others tell us they are.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is hard for me to fathom. All of these facts would have had to be known just to pass a high school Civics exam, or did we stop teaching Civics in school? More likely, we just stopped caring. When you are born into money, you rarely care about how you got it in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lots of thoughts. I feel like Canadians wouldn’t fare better… I think part of the reason is that we’re taught this stuff in grade school when most don’t have much of an interest or incentive (we can’t vote) and it’s never taught again in school after grade school.

    Also, you’re so right about how misinformation can be that gasoline that grows and gets bigger and spreads all over and then turns deadly in some cases…

    Moral of the story, ppl need to just read your blog! 😂😊 (but honestly, taking a citizenship test at 18 makes the most sense)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that most of this info is learned at a young age, but it seems like it would not be hard to keep such info fresh in your mind by simply being an engaged citizen and caring about your country.

      and it’s unfortunate that it is so easy to spread misinformation, so quickly.

      maybe as part of your driving test, people can take a citizenship test…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think, if anything, misinformation has proven to be just as harmful to the human race. And it starts with parents I think… We can start by setting them on the right path…


  5. Could be better, could be worse, although some of these questions are open to a bit of interpretation. Regarding Facebook, I would argue that at the very least there is nothing clear cut in the Constitution regarding it so there are legitimate arguments in either direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would probably do pretty badly on that test. I have a really bad memory and I don’t test well. Luckily I read all of your posts anyway. My father told me he recently took the test that immigrants are required to pass to become citizens. He said it was pretty hard, and he guessed that well over half of Americans would fail. Maybe we should make continued citizenship contingent on passing that test every five years. We require it from new citizens, we should require it from old ones too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think having such a citizen requirement would be a great way to keep people informed as to how our government works. It would be nice if debates were at least grounded in some basic common understanding of how our country works…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have observed that some people love to talk about the importance of the Constitution when they don’t even understand what it means. They think it makes them appear bright or showing great patriotism. Unfortunately, many of those same people like to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution they want everyone to follow while disregarding or conveniently ignoring other sections. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work!😜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. well said, Pete. some people have the ability to make the constitution mean whatever they want it to mean. and some of those people have the ability to get others to think the same way…


  8. How interesting, Jim. That is not the case here. The average South African is well informed about this sort of thing. I think people become lazy about their rights when they think they have nothing to worry about. Lots of people don’t bother voting and yet so many people died fighting for the right of first men, and then women, to vote. It’s strange how quickly we take things forgranted.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. No sweat! I won’t need to be taking remedial lessons with Borden’s Blather. I should score well above these dismal results. I agree with your observations at the end of this post. Lady Liberty is covering her eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

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