(StudyFinds.org) – US politics may be in a mess right now, but it is apparently making more people aware of their rights as citizens, a new survey reveals. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center say civic education knowledge has actually increased over the past year, reaching its highest levels since 2006.
The centre’s annual survey of more than 1,000 people reveals that 56% of Americans are now able to name all three branches of government. In 2006, only 33 percent of those polled could say with precision that the three branches include the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
Moreover, following a controversial impeachment trial, controversial elections, multiple court battles and a deadly riot on Capitol Hill, Americans came out of last year with a great understanding of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Three-quarters of the poll (74%) correctly stated that the First Amendment protects free speech. However, fewer respondents were aware that it also protects freedom of religion (56%), freedom of the press (50%), the right to assembly (30%) or the right to petition (20%).
“Higher proportions of the public have a fundamental knowledge of the three branches and protections of the First Amendment,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center in a press release. “But this knowledge seems to have been bought at a real cost. It has been a controversial year in which branches of government have been subjected to stress tests. “
Facebook and freedom of expression
While more and more people have updated their knowledge on one of America’s most important documents, there is still some confusion about how they apply this knowledge. With the controversy over how social media platforms like Facebook censor and block people’s posts, the poll looked at how the public perceives these actions.
Six in 10 Americans (61%) incorrectly said that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech means that Facebook must allow all users to express themselves freely on their website. The researchers explain that the First Amendment protects citizens from government censorship, but social media companies and their platforms are private entities. Therefore, the courts have ruled that freedom of expression does not cover these forums.
Despite this, 66% of Conservatives, 61% of Moderates, and 55% of Liberals all think the First Amendment covers what people are saying on Facebook.
Confusion in Congress too
The public is also very confused about how long the people they elect to public office remain in these jobs. Only 35 percent correctly said that a US senator sat for six years. Only 36 percent knew that a congressman serves for two years.
When it comes to court rulings, only 51% correctly said that the Supreme Court has the final say on whether or not an action by the president is constitutionally valid. In addition, one in three people believe that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision does not become a law. Instead, these Americans mistakenly think that a 5-4 decision is either sent back to Congress for “reconsideration” or sent to a lower court.
The Capitol riot continues to divide the nation
Regarding the chaotic events of January 6, the poll finds the country remains equally divided over whether Americans have the right to protest and storm Capitol. In fact, 49 percent believe the arrest of protesters at the United States Capitol violated their constitutional right to petition the government. Meanwhile, 49% believe the arrest of protesters on Capitol Hill did not violate the Constitution.
Surprisingly, researchers find that the idea that people had the right to disrupt Joe Biden’s election certification process has received bipartisan support. With 53 percent of conservatives and 51 percent of moderates who believe it is unconstitutional to stop the rioters on Capitol Hill, 42 percent of Liberals agree with this belief.