Confirmed: Most Americans Need Remedial Civics Lessons

Daniel Doherty
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Posted: Sep 21, 2014 5:00 PM
Confirmed: Most Americans Need Remedial Civics Lessons

Give yourself a giant pat on the back, guys.

I hope (and trust) if you've already troubled yourself enough to read this far, then unlike two-thirds of your fellow citizens, you can honestly say with a straight face that you paid attention during social studies class.

Wednesday marked national Constitution Day, the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. But only 36 percent of Americans can actually name the three branches of government the Constitution created. That’s according to a new survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and it shows a huge percentage of Americans might need to take a civics refresher course.

Only 38 percent of Americans knew the Republican Party controls the U.S. House of Representatives, while 17 percent think Democrats are still in charge. The number of people who knew Republicans were in charge has dropped 17 percent since the last time Annenberg asked, back in 2011, right after Republicans reclaimed control. An identical number, 38 percent, knows Democrats run the Senate, while 20 percent believe Republicans control the upper chamber. Only 27 percent knew it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.

Americans are thus more familiar with which political parties are in power than with which branches of government comprise our political system. Interesting. I wonder, then, how many of us also know that the "U.S. House of Representatives" and the "U.S. Senate," when taken together, make up the "U.S. Congress"?

In all seriousness, these are the kinds of results one might expect to find when polling, say, eight-year-olds. The fact that this was a national sample of adults is pretty scary.

For a nation with so many smart people in it, it’s amazing how little some of us know.