Less than half of US adults could name all three branches of government: Civics Survey

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s annual, nationally representative US civics survey, to be released Saturday, or Constitution Day, found the first drop in six years among those who could identify all three branches of government and declines among those who could name the First Amendment rights, among other questions.

“When it comes to civics, knowledge is power,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s troubling that so few know what rights we’re guaranteed by the First Amendment. We are unlikely to cherish, protect, and exercise rights if we don’t know that we have them.”

Some of the survey highlights include:

  • Less than half of U.S. adults (47%) could name all three branches of government, down from 56% in 2021 and the first decline on this question since 2016.
  • The number of respondents who could, unprompted, name each of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment also declined, sharply in some cases. For example, less than 1 in 4 people (24%) could name freedom of religion, down from 56% in 2021.
  • Over half of Americans (51%) continue to assert incorrectly that Facebook is required to let all Americans express themselves freely on its platform under the First Amendment.

For example, more details on the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, we find:

When asked unprompted to name the protections specified in the First Amendment, the number of respondents who could identify them declined, at times steeply:

  • Freedom of speech was cited by 63%, down from 74% in 2021 and 73% in 2020.
  • Freedom of religion was named by 24%, down from 56% in 2021 and 47% in 2020.
  • Freedom of the press was named by 20%, down from 50% in 2021 and 42% in 2020.
  • Right of assembly was named by 16%, down from 30% in 2021 and 34% in 2020.
  • Right to petition the government was named by 6%, down from 20% in 2021 and 14% in 2020.
In 2022 fewer people could name each of the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment. From the Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey conducted Aug. 2-13, 2022, among 1,113 U.S. adults.
Image/ Annenberg Public Policy Center

One in 4 respondents (26%) said they can’t name any or don’t know, compared with 17% in 2021 and 19% in 2020.

The Annenberg Civics Knowledge Survey is released by APPC for Constitution Day, which celebrates the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

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