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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Knowledge of US Government and Crime

Many posts have discussed the public's limited knowledge of government and public issues. From the Annenberg Public Policy Center:
Americans show great uncertainty when it comes to answering basic questions about how their government works, a national survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has found.

The survey of 1,416 adults, released for Constitution Day (Sept. 17) in conjunction with the launch of the Civics Renewal Network, found that:
  • While little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one.
  • Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.
  • One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration....

The study also found that more than half of Americans do not know which party controls the House and Senate:
  • Asked which party has the most members in the House of Representatives, 38 percent said they knew the Republicans are the majority, but 17 percent responded the Democrats, and 44 percent reported that they did not know (up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).
  • Asked which party controls the Senate, 38 percent correctly said the Democrats, 20 percent said the Republicans, and 42 percent said they did not know (also up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).
For the complete release on the survey, click here. For additional information on methodology and data, click here.

From YouGov:
Compared to most of the developed world, the United States has an unusually high violent crime rate. Nevertheless, over the past twenty years the US has seen a huge drop in crime. Most violent crime rates, including for murder, have halved in the past twenty years. ...
Most Americans, however, don't recognize that violent crime has dropped so significantly over the past twenty years. Over that time frame the national murder rate has halved, along with non-lethal violent crime, yet half the country (50%) say that violent crime has increased since 1994, and only 22% know that it has decreased. Younger Americans are less likely to say that crime has increased since the mid-90s, while people with a household income of over $80,000 are the only group that tends to know that violent crime has dropped.
Americans also think that New York remains dangerous, even though it is the safest big city in the country.