A recent survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that a majority of Americans are unaware of what is considered basic knowledge of the Constitution.
This information, which was released Wednesday, comes on the cusp of the 228th anniversary of Constitution Day (Sept. 17).
Here are some of the most surprising findings from the survey:
- 1 in 3 Americans believe the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to home ownership.
- 1 in 4 Americans believe the Bill of Rights guarantees “equal pay for equal work.”
- 1 in 3 Americans (31 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government and 32 percent could not identify a single branch.
- 1 in 4 Americans (28 percent) believe a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is sent back to either Congress for reconsideration or to the lower courts for another decision.
- 1 in 10 Americans (12 percent) believe the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to own a pet.
- 25 percent of respondents agreed that “it might be better to do away with the court altogether” if it started making a lot of rulings most Americans disagreed with.
- 26 percent said when Congress disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decisions, it should pass legislation saying the court can no longer rule on that issue.
- 26 percent favored requiring a person to testify against himself in court.
- 46 percent opposed a prohibition on “double jeopardy,” or retrying a person for the same crime twice if new evidence emerged after a not-guilty verdict.
- 54 percent believe the government should not be able to prohibit a peaceful march down a main street, even if the marchers’ views are offensive.
- 50 percent believe the government should not be able to prohibit practice of a religion if a majority of voters thought that it held un-American views.
- 76 percent opposed giving the government “prior restraint,” the right to stop the press from publishing articles critical of the government.
The survey was conducted during the last few days of August among 1,012 adults ages 18 and up. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percent.
In a statement, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said, “Those who can identify the three branches and key provisions in the Bill of Rights are more likely to support the system embodied in the Constitution. Civic knowledge predicts a willingness, for instance, to retain the Supreme Court whether it issues a desired or unpopular ruling.”