Amid Pandemic and Protests, Civics Survey Finds Americans Know More of Their Rights

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: The 2020 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey shows that compared to the 2019 survey, Americans’ civic knowledge has improved markedly. Americans better understand their rights protected by the First Amendment and over half (51 percent) correctly identified the three branches of government (just 39 percent could do the same in 2019).

The 2020 Annenberg Constitution Day Survey found that U.S. adults’ civic knowledge increased significantly over the past year. For example, 51 percent of surveyed U.S. adults could identify the three branches of government – a noteworthy increase from only 39 percent of Americans who could do the same in 2019.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center surveyed 1,009 U.S. adults ages 18 and older between August 4 and 9, 2020.

“Divided government, the impeachment process, and the number of times political leaders have turned to the courts probably deserve credit for increasing awareness of the three branches,” said Annenberg Public Policy Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson, “while controversies over the right to peaceably assemble, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech may have done the same for the First Amendment.”

Other results include:

  • 73 percent of Americans surveyed could name the freedom of religion as a right protected by the First Amendment, which was up from 48 percent in 2017.
  • The percentage of Americans who could not name any First Amendment rights fell from 37 percent in 2017 to 19 percent in 2020.
  • A majority – 56 percent – said that Supreme Court Justices set aside their personal preferences when they make rulings on specific cases, an increase from 49 percent in 2019.

Read the full report here.

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Annenberg Public Policy Center

Findings:

  • 51 percent of American adults could correctly identify the three branches of government.
  • This year's results are a 12 percent increase compared with those of last year, a significant increase.
  • The percentage of American adults who could not name any branch of government slighty increased from last year's results.