A study that surveyed more than 1,000 Americans has discovered that the vast majority of US citizens seem to be illiterate when it comes to US politics and basic laws.
The research, performed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, reveals that only 26 percent of those surveyed could name all three branches of the government (executive, legislative and judicial). What's worse, one third of respondents failed to name even a single one. According to the study's authors, the latter indicator has remained the same for five years.
Some 15 percent were able to name freedom of religion, 14 percent named freedom of the press, 10 percent named the right of peaceful assembly, and only 3 percent managed to remember the right to petition the government, the authors say.
Thirty-seven percent failed to name a single freedom provided by the First Amendment.
"Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don't is worrisome," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the APPC, in a press release. "These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional protections."
US political illiteracy extends to somewhat more complicated issues. For example, more than half of respondents believe that illegal immigrants enjoy no legal rights in the US, which is not true: as a number of rights, including equal protection under the law, are fixed in the 14th amendment of the US Constitution, whether citizen or not.
Interestingly, while conservatives surveyed were more likely to name all three branches of federal government, compared to liberals or moderates, a majority of conservatives (67 percent) also erroneously believe illegal immigrants enjoy zero rights in America (only some 47 percent of liberals and moderates agreed with that statement).
The authors of the study also mention that more than 30 percent of respondents believe that people enjoy various rights according to their religion — that is, they believe atheists and Muslims share a different set of constitutional freedoms than those of Christians.