While it was easy to ridicule the House Republicans for their reading the Constitution aloud when the 112th Congress opened earlier this month, but if the results of a recent survey of 30,000 Americans are any indication, it seems we all may be in need of a refresher course on this most important founding document.
The survey focuses on “average” Americans versus those that indicated they ever held any elected office (federal, state, or local), but no matter how you slice it, the results reflect poorly on our understanding of the Constitution – here are a few results:
- 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.”)
Think you know the Constitution? Test your knowledge with these ten questions from the survey – get more than five correct, and you are an above average Constitutional scholar!
1) What are the three branches of government?
A. executive, legislative, judicial
B. executive, legislative, military
C. bureaucratic, military, industry
D. federal, state, local
2) What part of the government has the power to declare war?
B. the president
C. the Supreme Court
D. the Joint Chiefs of Staff
3) In the area of United States foreign policy, Congress shares power with the:
B. Supreme Court
C. state governments
D. United Nations
4) The United States Electoral College: A. trains those aspiring for higher political office
B. was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates
C. is otherwise known as the U.S. Congress
D. is a constitutionally mandated assembly that elects the president
E. was ruled undemocratic by the Supreme Court
5) What impact did the Anti-Federalists have on the United States Constitution?
A. their arguments helped lead to the adoption of the Bill of Rights
B. their arguments helped lead to the abolition of the slave trade
C. their influence ensured that the federal government would maintain a standing army
D. their influence ensured that the federal government would have the power to tax
6) The phrase that in America there should be a “wall of separation” between church and state appears in:A. George Washington’s Farewell Address
B. the Mayflower Compact
C. the Constitution
D. the Declaration of Independence
E. Thomas Jefferson’s letters
7) The Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits:
A. prayer in public school
B. discrimination based on race, sex, or religion
C. the ownership of guns by private individuals
D. establishing an official religion for the United States
E. the president from vetoing a line item in a spending bill
8) Identify one right or freedom below guaranteed by the first amendment.
A. Right to bear arms
B. Due process
D. Right to counsel
9) Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government listed below?
A. Make treaties
B. Make zoning laws
C. Maintain prisons
D. Establish standards for doctors and lawyers
10) Who is the commander in chief of the U.S. military?
A. Secretary of the army
B. Secretary of state
D. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
1) A; 2) A; 3) A; 4) D; 5) A; 6) E; 7) D; 8) C; 9) A; 10) C
Really feeling good about your knowledge of the Constitution? Why not take the full 33 question survey online here.