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.
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.