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Only 5% of Americans know all 1st Amendment rights, survey finds

The American flag. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)
September 23, 2023

The recent 2023 Annenberg National Online Panel Constitution Day Survey revealed a growing majority of Americans are not aware of their Constitutional rights, with only 5% of Americans correctly identifying all five of their First Amendment rights.

The new survey, conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is an annual survey that is released each year on Sept. 17 for Constitution Day. The survey found that only 5% of U.S. adults could name each of the five First Amendment rights, 30% could name three or four First Amendment Rights, 46% could name one or two First Amendment rights, and 20% could not name any First Amendment rights.

The survey also found that only 66% of Americans can name the three branches of government, 10% of Americans can list two branches of government, 7% of Americans can name one branch, and 17% of Americans cannot name any branch of government.

“It is worrisome that one in six U.S. adults cannot name any of the branches of government and that only 1 in 20 can name all five freedoms protected by the First Amendment,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said in a press release.

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Jamieson added, “One is unlikely to cherish or work to protect freedoms one does not know one has and will have trouble holding elected and unelected leaders accountable if one does not understand the nature and prerogatives of each branch and the ways in which the power of each is kept in check.”

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, this year’s survey pool was comprised of 1,482 U.S. adults. The survey was conducted in August by SSRS, an independent research company.

Although the survey is conducted each year, this year’s survey was notably different since it was conducted entirely online instead of by phone. Respondents also completed the survey without help from an interviewer.

“Whether giving people a chance to reread a question and search their memory for an accurate response is a better way to assess civic knowledge than asking top-of-mind recall over the phone is an open question,” Jamieson noted in the press release. “But whether one prefers online to phone questions or not, the bottom line across our surveys remains the same – a concerning number cannot muster the knowledge needed to exercise their constitutional rights or make sense of the workings of our system of government.”