Survey shows gaps in Americans' basic civics knowledge

Survey shows gaps in Americans' basic civics knowledge
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There are some holes in Americans’ general knowledge of the Constitution, U.S. history and government, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

The American Bar Association (ABA) found in its first annual Survey of Civic Literacy that 49 percent of the respondents knew that John Roberts was the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Twenty-three percent believed that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg held that role, while another 16 percent thought it belonged to Justice Clarence Thomas.

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The survey also found that less than half – 44 percent – knew that the right to burn the U.S. flag in protest is protected under the First Amendment.

And 38 percent knew that the Constitution, along with federal laws and treaties, was the ultimate law in the U.S.

A majority of respondents gave accurate responses when it came to more well-established civics knowledge: For example, 89 percent knew that “We the People” were the first three words of the Constitution.

Seventy-eight percent also knew that the phrase “rule of law” meant that no one is above the law, and 93 percent knew that the Senate and House made up the two chambers of Congress.

The questions were pulled from the pool of 100 potential questions asked of individuals seeking U.S. citizenship. Only five percent of the respondents answered all of the questions presented to them correctly, according to ABA. Citizenship applicants must respond correctly to 6 out of 10 questions asked of them.

The survey also found that the respondents generally said they support the rights protected under the First Amendment. Sixty percent of the respondents said they “strongly agree” that people should be able to criticize leaders in government, including the president.

And 61 percent strongly disagreed that the government should be able to stop the press from covering political protests.

ABA surveyed 1,000 adults using phone and online interviews. The survey has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.