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New study reveals that one-fifth of Americans cannot name even one of the branches of government

Less than two-fifths could correctly name all three

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania found that less than two-fifths of Americans could name all three branches of the U.S. government, and more than one-fifth could not name even single branch.

What are the details?

This study, produced by the university's Annenberg Public Policy Center, found that out of 1,104 people interviewed in English and Spanish, 22 percent could not name a single branch of government, 25 percent could name just one branch, 14 percent could name two branches, and 39 percent could name all the branches. The study was conducted Aug. 16-27. The margin of error for this survey was 3.6 percent.

Annenberg Public Policy Center Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson called the results "dismal," adding that a "quarter of U.S. adults can name only one of the three branches of government and more than a fifth can't name any. The resilience of our system of government is best protected by an informed citizenry. And civics education and attention to news increase that likelihood."

As sad as this statistic might seem, it's reportedly better — at least slightly — than it has been. Similar surveys found only 38 percent of Americans could name all three branches in 2013, and only 32 percent could in 2011.

What else?

In addition to this question, the center asked respondents about several other issues, including:

  • Whether illegal immigrants had rights under the U.S. Constitution (40 percent thought they did not, although several amendments apply to anyone in the U.S., regardless of citizenship);
  • Whether "the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a citizen has a constitutional right to own a handgun" (83 percent correctly answered that it had);
  • Whether a judge can force defendants to represent themselves at trial (63 percent correctly said that this was unconstitutional); and
  • What it takes to override a presidential veto (53 percent correctly said it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto).
One last thing…
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