Do Americans Know More about Their Rights in 2020?

Image Courtesy of Civics-Online

By Franchetta Groves 

A recent study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC)  at the University of Pennsylvania found that American citizens are becoming more knowledgeable of their First Amendment rights and civics of the American government.  The APPC puts out this survey every year on September 17 for Constitution Day as a way to increase civics education. The study found that American citizens are more aware of all five rights protected by the First Amendment as well as the three branches of government. 

A promising fact from the data was the increase in American citizens who were able to correctly name freedom of speech as one of the rights protected by the First Amendment. Along with this over half of the 1,109 participants were able to accurately name all three branches of government, which is up from 39% last year. It has been a positive trend that over the years more American citizens have been able to correctly name the five rights of the First Amendment since the Annenberg Public Policy last asked the question in 2017

The study points to the trend that American citizens are also becoming more aware and knowledgeable about the three branches of government and their ability to name all three branches of government. When questioned in this survey 51% of participants could name all three branches as compared to 39% when last questioned in the 2019 survey. Interestingly the APPC survey also found that 56% of respondents believed that Supreme Court Justices should rule by setting aside personal opinions and instead should make rulings based on the Constitution, the law, and the facts of the case. As the country approaches the possible appointment of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who would fill the seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, this data could indicate the publics’ reaction. 

The survey also looked at if the participants could correctly answer that the Supreme Court has a final say when deciding if an action of a president is constitutional or not. Only 51% of the respondents were able to answer correctly that the Supreme Court has the final say as opposed to the 61% who responded correctly to this question in 2019. 

The final question of the survey asked the respondents what percent of a majority is required in both the House and the Senate to overturn a presidential veto. Only 47% of participants were able to answer this question correctly which is the lowest it has been since 2007. An interesting correlation is that there have been no attempts to override the veto this year. 

“I’m really pleased with the results and hopeful for the future. It is often said, and the evidence now demonstrates, that the 2016 election and the Trump administration have had a unique effect on American political life and civic engagement,” said sophomore Blayne Clegg-Swann. “Regardless of political affiliation, a reverence for the founding documents and an understanding of the freedoms they bestow us with are critical to our continued success as a country.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *