“Life, liberty and the pursuit of — you know, the thing”: Study shows Americans should bone up on civics

new poll from the University of the Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center shows Americans have gotten a better understanding about their government of late, but they still need to study up. 

While millions of Americans would have no trouble naming, say, all the Kardashians, just 56% of the 1,000 people polled could name all three branches of government. 

Believe it or not, that’s actually at a 15-year high from the 33% who could in 2006. So…good job?

The wonks at the Annenberg Center say current events — protests, and a contentious election — have led more Americans to become aware of how the government works, and what their Constitutional rights are. But as a frustrated civics teacher might say, there’s room for improvement. 

Seventy-four percent of those polled, for example, know the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but just 56% knew the amendment also protects the freedom of religion. Only 50% knew the First Amendment protected the freedom of the press, 30% that it gives Americans the right to assembly, and 20% knew it shields their right to petition the government. 

Sixty-one percent of those polled incorrectly believed their First Amendment rights to unrestricted free speech applies to non-government social media entities like Facebook, which are generally free to regulate or prohibit what’s posted on their platforms. 

The poll also noted that 66% of self-described conservatives thought the First Amendment shielded them on Facebook, a belief shared by 55% of liberals and 61% of moderates.

The Annenberg poll also revealed that the public really needs to get a better understanding of their elected representatives. Just 35% correctly said that a U.S. senator serves for six years; similarly, only 36% knew that a congressperson serves for two years.