Americans’ Civics Knowledge Increases During a Stress-Filled Year

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: The 2021 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey shows that, like the 2020 survey, Americans’ civic knowledge has continued to improve. Americans better understand their rights protected by the First Amendment – freedoms of religion, the press, and the right to petition government were each cited at higher percentages compared with last year’s survey – and 56 percent of surveyed adults correctly identified the three branches of government, the highest percentage since the survey began in 2006.

The 2021 Annenberg Constitution Day Survey found that U.S. adults’ civic knowledge is continuing to improve. For example, 56 percent of surveyed U.S. adults could identify the three branches of government – the highest percentage since the survey began in 2006.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center surveyed 1,007 U.S. adults ages 18 and older between August 3 and August 8, 2021.

“Higher proportions of the public have a foundational awareness of the three branches and the protections in the First Amendment,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. “But this knowledge appears to have been purchased at a real cost. It was a contentious year in which the branches of government were stress-tested.”

Other results include:

  • Citations of First Amendment rights such as the freedom of religion (56 percent; up from 47 percent), freedom of the press (50 percent; up from 42 percent), and the right to petition the government (20 percent; up from 14 percent) increased from last year’s survey.
  • The percentage of Americans who could not name any First Amendment rights fell to 17 percent (it was 19 percent in 2020).
  • Over half of conservatives (53 percent) and moderates (51 percent) – and even a significant portion (42 percent) of self-described liberals – said that the arrest of those who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 violated their constitutional rights.

Read the full report here.

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Annenberg Public Policy Center

Findings:

  • 56 percent of American adults correctly identified the three branches of government, the highest percentage since the survey began in 2006.
  • 20 percent of American adults could not name any branch of government – down from 22 percent last year.
  • Over the last two years, a majority of American adults surveyed could name the three branches of government.