Survey: Just a quarter of Americans can name all 3 branches of government

PHILADELPHIA — A sizable portion of the American public seems to show little interest in the fabric of the country’s government and history, a new survey finds.

Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) surveyed over 1,000 American adults, finding a shocking lack of knowledge as it pertains to U.S. politics among the general populace.

United States Constitution
In a new survey of American adults, just a quarter were able to name all three branches of the federal government, while 37% couldn’t name a single right protected by First Amendment.

Fifty-three percent of respondents believed the falsehood that illegal immigrants aren’t granted any constitutional rights, while 37 percent couldn’t even name a single right endowed by the First Amendment.

Thankfully, 48 percent of those surveyed were able to identify freedom of speech as being a right enshrined by the First Amendment, although far fewer could identify other rights accorded.

These include freedom of religion (15 percent), freedom of the press (14 percent), right of peaceful assembly (10 percent), and right to petition the government (three percent).

“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release. “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional protections.”

Meanwhile, only 26 percent of Americans could name all three branches of the federal government — that would be the executive, legislative, and judicial, for those playing at home.

While conservatives were more likely to be able to name all three branches than liberals or moderates, the overall proportion of the public that can name all three has fallen by 12 percent since 2011.

Perhaps most embarrassing: a full third of respondents couldn’t name a single federal branch of government, a figure that hasn’t shifted over the past half-decade.

As for the rights of illegal immigrants, a majority of conservatives (67 percent) believed that illegal aliens were not provided any legal recourse, compared to slight minorities of moderates (48 percent) and liberals (46 percent).

In reality, illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. are usually afforded a number of rights, including protection under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

On another note, it’s somewhat surprising that a significant minority of respondents believed that one could be denied rights on the basis of their religion (e.g., if they were Muslim or atheist).

The poll’s findings have a sampling error of about 3.7 percentage points.


  1. This proves that our public education system has failed miserably. We spend more per capital than any other country but our failing to provide a real education. Liberals are responsible for this morass.

  2. Yea no kidding . They stopped teaching history 30 years ago. Go to you kids school and see the leftist propaganda they teach there. That’s why you have a generation on morons out there voting for criminal democrats and pulling down statues of Columbus. GO TO YOUR KIDS SCHOOL AND ASK TO SEE THE CURRICULUM

  3. It all started with the inception of teachers’ unions. Break the unions, and the people who pay the taxes will be back in charge of determining what is taught to our children and who gets to teach it..

  4. It’s a deep state liberal plan not to teach our youth about civics, “if you don’t know your rights, how easy is it to take them away from you.”
    A well educated populous, a populous who questions authority, is a populous that is hard to fool. We are teaching a bunch of snowflakes that don’t challenge what they are taught, told to parrot their educators.

  5. If only we had tripled real per student spending over the last 40 years. Oh wait, we have with no aggregate improvement in performance and some frightening declines. At least the democrat party has enjoyed a massive increase in campaign contributions from teacher’s unions, so I guess this is okay, at least with them.

  6. A friend of mine has a son who is a junior in high school taking an American history class. He (the son) says it’s all a joke. They’ve been talking about nothing but slavery since the beginning of the year. No revolutionary war. No preceding English history. No Jamestown. No civil war. No formation of the colonies. No constitutional assembly. Nothing but slavery.

  7. The three branches of government are: “We the people”, “The States” and the Federal government. Comprised of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The author of this article needs to go back to civics class in high school.

  8. “Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson
    Yet school children know the divisive politics (hate speech, minority groups, inclusiveness mantras, alternative lifestyles …) very well. What they don’t know are the basics of a useful education (Reading, writing, math, science, history …). It seems the NEA and teacher’s unions have purposefully failed them while supporting the socialists.

  9. Ignorance at dangerous levels… And, if I’m not mistaken, the liberal democrats have been controlling FOREVER the school systems where you’re seeing the worst of this… Look at Chicago… The place is like a war zone and the mayor is going after Chic-fil-A.

  10. “Fifty-three percent of respondents believed the falsehood that illegal immigrants aren’t granted any constitutional rights”

    “In reality, illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. are usually afforded a number of rights, including protection under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.”

    It’s not a falsehood. I know the Constitution well enough to know that if you’re born here or naturalized, then you are a citizen. Then you have rights. If you’re an illegal alien, then you have no rights. And if you are privileged by your neighbor with what USUALLY appears as rights, then you’re under a measure of grace. That is all.

    Don’t go spouting falsehoods of your own.

    You who wrote this article are nuts. Just plain nuts.

  11. “respondents believed the falsehood that illegal immigrants aren’t granted any constitutional rights”

    “illegal immigrants … are usually afforded”

    So which is it? A right or a privilege?

  12. This article is part of the problem definitely not part of the solution. Where ther author failed is to read into their own opinion. The 14th starts off with
    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States”
    Later in the amendment it says “all people” they assume that “all people” means illegal aliens when you look at the beginning it clearly states “all persons BORN or NATURALIZED.
    No where does it mention illegal immigrants born here is clearly defined as well as naturalized.
    Just like this author so many who think they know what the constitution says actually read their opinion into it. Read it as what was written not how your opinion thinks it says.

  13. American voters, ignorant and dumb. Just the way politicians like ’em. Hey, look over there, an athlete is standing, sitting or standing on his head. That’s what they want you to think is important. Pathetic and very sad.

    1. You are right. I guarantee you that every student in that one room schoolhouse in the 1800s knew the three branches of government.

  14. I guess we can chalk this up to UNION teachers and liberal indoctrination. This also has led to young people being afraid of WORDS, and needing a safe space, away from the real world. Any other reasons not to STOP liberal indoctrination as bad for our country?

    1. definitely civics. a test should be given upon voter registration with the basics of our republic. if a citizen can’t pass it because they are that indifferent or that stupid, they should be denied franchise.

  15. My 11 year old can answer this. Are you educating your kids or leaving it to the schools? Table talk at dinner is a good thing.

  16. That’s because they have changed. What used to be the Executive writes laws, until recently at an alarming rate. The Supreme Court is the littlest legislature, they write laws, too. The Legislative seems to preen and strut, but don’t appear to serve any useful function, the appendix of government, so to speak. Except that the appendix is thought to store gut flora, so the Legislature is perhaps less useful than the appendix.

  17. the fact is they haven’t taught civics in schools in at least 25 years…and this is the end result. a bunch of antifa idiots praising chairman mao and not understanding how the gov’t actually functions. trump isn’t a dictator you pathetic morons…if he was, most of you idiots would already be rounded up.

  18. consider that media matters remains tax exempt because they are an educational service for voters.
    how are they still tax exempt?

  19. I’m guessing most people who know one or more of the provisions in the First Amendment don’t understand that I can tell them to shut the **** up and not be infringing upon their First Amendment rights. “Congress shall make no law” doesn’t apply to me as an individual.

  20. Three branches of government:
    1) Welfare office
    2) Unemployment office

    I can only think of two.

    Maybe the third is the police. That is where they take the money back.

  21. No doubt Hussein Obuckethead hasn’t a clue what the three branches are, nor would he care! All Obama needed was his pen and phone to justify legislation!

  22. Illegal aliens (foreigners invading the U.S.A.), don’t have constitutional rights, they aren’t citizens. Sadly, we’ve been forced to open up the 5th amendment, because there are so many criminal illegal aliens. The fact not every American knows the 3 branches of government, is abhorrent!

  23. Good article, but the First Amendment does not “endow us with Rights” rather protects our rights from government intervention/ control. The fact is, most people don’t know their “rights” and feel that government is our friend who gives them to us.

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