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Are You Smarter Than an Elected Official?


Elected officials flunk Constitution quiz

When Republican leadership demanded the U.S. Constitution be read on the floor of the House of Representatives to kick off the 112th Congress, a number of members complained, dubbing the reverance for the founding document "propaganda."

But a new study suggests elected officials need a refresher course of Constitution 101 more than ever. According to a survey by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, America's elected officials actually tend to know even less about key provisions of the U.S. Constitution than the general public.

For the fifth-straight year, the ISI surveyed more than 30,000 Americans to test their knowledge of the Constitution. Elected officials who took the test scored on average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent). AOL News gives some example findings:

Only 49 percent of elected officials could name all three branches of government, compared with 50 percent of the general public.

Only 46 percent knew that Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war — 54 percent of the general public knows that.

Just 15 percent answered correctly that the phrase “wall of separation” appears in Thomas Jefferson’s letters — not in the U.S. Constitution — compared with 19 percent of the general public.

And only 57 percent of those who’ve held elective office know what the Electoral College does, while 66 percent of the public got that answer right. (Of elected officials, 20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for “training those aspiring for higher political office.”)

Overall, our sample of elected officials averaged a failing 44 percent on the entire 33-question test, 5 percentage points lower than the national average of 49 percent.

Given these results, perhaps Congress should review the Constitution more often.

Take the test yourself -- Are you smarter than the average elected official?

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