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Fewer than half of Americans can name all three branches of government, survey finds

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Story at a glance


  •  About a quarter of Americans surveyed could not name a single branch. 

  • The survey also found a decline in the number of respondents who could name any of the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment. 

  • Around 26 percent of respondents could not name any First Amendment freedoms.

Americans’ understanding of basic facts about the U.S. government declined for the first time in six years, as fewer than half in a new survey could name all three branches of government.  

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s annual Constitution Day Civics Survey found a significant drop in the percentage of Americans who could name all three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial — falling by 9 percentage points from a year earlier. 

About a quarter of Americans surveyed could not name a single branch. 

The survey also found a decline in the number of respondents who could name any of the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.  

Freedom of religion was named by 24 percent of those surveyed, falling from 56 percent from the previous survey. Those who named freedom of the press also declined sharply down by 30 percentage points from 50 percent in 2021.  

Around 26 percent of respondents could not name any First Amendment freedoms. And the percentage of respondents who listed the right to bear arms — a right protected under the Second Amendment — as a First Amendment protection tripled from 2021 rising to 9 percent.

But respondents did exhibit significant knowledge in several areas, including some aspects of firearm ownership and search and seizure laws. More than 80 percent knew the Supreme Court upheld citizens’ rights to own a gun, while around 78 percent know that the Bill of Rights protects Americans from illegal searches and seizures. 

Moreover, nearly three-quarters of respondents know the Constitution prevents the federal government from establishing an official religion — a percentage statistically similar to the previous year’s survey. 

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“When it comes to civics, knowledge is power,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a media release

“It’s troubling that so few know what rights we’re guaranteed by the First Amendment. We are unlikely to cherish, protect, and exercise rights if we don’t know that we have them.”