Americans’ Civics Knowledge Increases But Still Has a Long Way to Go

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: The 2019 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey shows that while there has been an improvement in civic knowledge among American adults since last year’s survey, only a minority of Americans surveyed (39 percent) could correctly identify the three branches of government, showing that a sizable majority of U.S. adults still do not possess basic civic knowledge.

The 2019 Annenberg Constitution Day Survey found that, compared to past findings, U.S. adults’ civic knowledge is increasing, but the knowledge gap is still substantial. For example, just 39 percent (2 in 5 Americans) of surveyed U.S. adults could correctly identify the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center surveyed 1,104 U.S. adults ages 18 and older between August 16th and 27th, 2019.

“While this marks an improvement, the overall results remain dismal,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “A quarter of U.S. adults can name only one of the three branches of government and more than a fifth can’t name any. The resilience of our system of government is best protected by an informed citizenry. And civics education and attention to news increase that likelihood.”

Other results include:

  • A majority of Americans, 59 percent, correctly said that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision meant that “the decision is the law and needs to be followed.”
  • 55 percent correctly said that people living in the United States illegally possess rights under the Constitution.
  • A slim majority—53 percent—of adults surveyed correctly answered that a two-thirds vote by both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are needed to override a presidential veto.

Read the full report here.

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Annenberg Public Policy Center

Findings:

  • Just 39 percent of American adults could correctly identify the three branches of government.
  • 22 percent of American adults could not name any branch of government, which is down from 34 percent last year.
  • From 2006, when the survey began, to 2019, not even 40 percent of American adults could name the three branches of government.