New data reveals that Americans have a much better understanding of the three branches of government than ever before, possibly due to the massive increase in politics in our media regimes.
Why is this important: “This knowledge appears to have been purchased at a real cost,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “It has been a controversial year in which branches of government have been subjected to stress tests.”
Details: An annual civic study by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that a more polarized society knows more about the basics of U.S. government and much more about the First Amendment.
- In 2021, 56% of Americans could name all three branches of government, up from 51% in 2020 and 33% in 2006.
- About a third of those polled say they know the term of office of members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate.
Between the lines: In general, Americans are much more aware of the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, and in particular freedom of speech.
- More than half of those surveyed can cite at least three of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. In 2016, most Americans could only name one.
- In total, nearly three-quarters (74%) of all Americans were able to name freedom of speech as a right, followed by freedom of religion (56%) and freedom of the press (50% ).
Yes, but: A better understanding of issues such as free speech is likely the result of an increasingly polarized debate in society over censorship and media prejudice, which has blurred some of the facts around the issue.
- To that end, more than half of Americans (61%) incorrectly said that the First Amendment requires Facebook to let all Americans express themselves freely on its platform.
- Likewise, nearly half of Americans (49%) believe it is correct that the arrest of the rioters on Capitol Hill on January 6 violates their constitutional rights.
At the end of the line : “It’s a sad commentary on public civic literacy that half the public sees an effort to disrupt the certification of an election as an exercise of a First Amendment right,” Jamieson said.