Sunday is Constitution Day and the Annenberg Public Policy Center has released its annual poll about what Americans know about the Constitution and our system of government. Short version: Not much. Americans remain abysmally ignorant of the document so many claim to revere.
Among the findings:
53% of Americans think that undocumented aliens have no rights under the Constitution. That is flatly false. They don’t have every right, but they do have most rights guaranteed by the Constitution, particularly when it comes to due process and equal protection.
37% of Americans can’t name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Not one.
Only 26% of Americans can name all three branches of government. 33% can’t name a single one of the branches of government. And surprisingly, self-identified conservatives were “significantly more likely” than liberals or moderates to get that one right. And in 2011, that number was 38%, so it’s dropped a lot. I wonder why.
I know the history of literacy tests is one of racial discrimination, but part of me does think that you should be able to answer some basic questions about the government before you can vote. The other part of me recognizes the dangers of that, however. Still, can a democracy really function effectively when the voters are this ignorant about such basic matters of government? I don’t know the answer to that, but I know these results are disturbing.