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New Survey on Civic Knowledge Finds One-Third of Respondents Cannot Name All Three Branches of Government

New Survey on Civic Knowledge Finds One-Third of Respondents Cannot Name All Three Branches of Government

A new survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania indicates that American’s general knowledge of civic history is declining.

Out of all survey respondents, one-third could not name any branches of the American government while only a quarter could name them all.

The survey is being released ahead of Constitution Day (Sept. 17) as part of the center’s mission to improve civic education throughout the country.

According to the researchers, the responses indicate a statistically significant decline in Americans’ knowledge of civic history.

“Lack of basic civics knowledge is worrisome and an argument for an increased focus on civics education in the schools,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center in a statement.

Related surveys from recent years have revealed similar results.

One such survey found that 50 percent of U.S. citizens do not know the number of U.S. senators, a finding that led many civic education advocates to revamp efforts to pursue change. 

Advocates argue that these findings are indicative of a need for the country to give civic education a re-boot on a national level, with some calling for the inclusion of citizenship into college and career readiness standards as the "third c."

In 2014, the now-late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lamented the state of civic education in the U.S. Unhappy with how little U.S. students are being taught about U.S. history, he said:

"I don't think we can be too cocky about America always being America. It's going to change unless the people have the same determination to preserve liberty that the framers had.”

The commissioner of the latest report, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, is actively trying to provide Americans with improved access to civic education resources where K-12 classrooms are lacking.

The center is a partner of the Civics Renewal Network (CRN), which provides free, high-quality educational materials online at


Related Resources:

Read more about the study here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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