September 17, 2016, Annenberg Center for Public Policy — “Only a quarter of Americans can name all three branches of government, the poorest showing on that question in a half-dozen years,” according to a new survey on civic knowledge by the Annenberg Center for Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “And nearly a third of Americans cannot name any of the three branches of government. “Americans’ lack of knowledge about their government isn’t limited to civics.”
“In August, just weeks after the political conventions, only 84 percent of those surveyed could name the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Most could not name either major-party vice presidential candidate.”
The survey, released for Constitution Day (Sept. 17), found that 26 percent of people can name the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), a statistically significant decline since 2011, when 38 percent could name all three. In the current survey, 31 percent of respondents could not name any of three branches, about the same as last year.
Despite the vast amount of news coverage that the political conventions generated in July, a survey of more than a thousand U.S. adults conducted August 11-15, 2016 found that:
- 87 percent could name the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton;
- 84 percent could name the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump;
- 37 percent could name the Republican candidate for vice president, Mike Pence;
- 22 percent could name the Democratic candidate for vice president, Tim Kaine.
“Those unfamiliar with our three branches of government can’t understand the importance of checks and balances and an independent judiciary,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “Lack of basic civics knowledge is worrisome and an argument for an increased focus on civics education in the schools.”