In a period defined by an impeachment inquiry, a pandemic, nationwide protests over racial injustice, and a contentious presidential campaign, Americans’ knowledge of their First Amendment rights and their ability to name all three branches of the federal government have markedly increased, according to the 2020 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey.
Among the highlights of the annual survey, released for Constitution Day (Sept. 17):
The civics knowledge survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania was conducted among 1,009 U.S. adults from August 4-9, 2020, prior to the political conventions. It has a margin of error of ± 3.6%.
- Americans are much more aware of all five rights protected by the First Amendment when asked unprompted to name them;
- Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) correctly named freedom of speech as one of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment, up from 48% in 2017;
- More than half of those surveyed (51%) accurately named all three branches of the federal government, up from 39% last year, the prior high point in this survey.
“Divided government, the impeachment process, and the number of times political leaders have turned to the courts probably deserve credit for increasing awareness of the three branches, while controversies over the right to peaceably assemble, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech may have done the same for the First Amendment,” said Annenberg Public Policy Center Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson.