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Editorial Commentary: Ken Ciboski

We Love Our Constitution, Despite Knowing Little About It


We love our constitution—at least, what we know about it. The Constitution was ratified 231 years ago this past Monday, September 17. Each year, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania surveys Americans on how much they know about the American system of government. Each year, the results demonstrate how little Americans know about the Constitution.

Here are a few from this year’s results: 21 percent could name one branch of government; 13 percent two branches; 32 percent could name all three branches.

Americans also know little about what government does.  Twenty-seven percent said incorrectly that the president can ignore a Supreme Court ruling if he believes the ruling is wrong.

Forty-one percent stated incorrectly that both the House and the Senate must approve before a nominee for the Supreme Court can be a justice. 

Thirty percent stated correctly that only the Senate confirms a new justice.

Fifty-five percent know that a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court is the law.

Seventy-five percent knew that the Constitution requires the federal government to conduct a census every 10 years.

Remember, it is the Supreme Court that says what the Constitution is about, so it is troubling to learn that one in five respondents would consider doing away with the Supreme Court if it issued too many unpopular decisions.