findlaw.com and I can't think of another adjective to describe people who don't know the basics of what's in the Constitution. Would it kill people to....oh, I don't know...read the thing? " /> findlaw.com and I can't think of another adjective to describe people who don't know the basics of what's in the Constitution. Would it kill people to....oh, I don't know...read the thing? " />
Yeah, I know. Pretty harsh on the old title. But I just saw this press release from findlaw.com and I can't think of another adjective to describe people who don't know the basics of what's in the Constitution.
Would it kill people to....oh, I don't know...read the thing?
Are Americans Right About Their Constitutional Rights?
New FindLaw.com Survey Finds Some Hits & Misses in Constitutional Knowledge
EAGAN, Minn., Sept. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Most Americans can correctly identify most of the basic individual rights contained in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, according to a new survey conducted by the legal Web site FindLaw.com. But Americans also have some mistaken beliefs when it comes to constitutional rights. The national survey was conducted in honor of Constitution Day, the annual celebration that marks the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
More than eight out of 10 Americans can correctly identify that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to free exercise of religion, right to a fair and speedy jury trial in criminal cases and the right to peaceably assemble are rights explicitly granted by the Constitution and its amendments.
However, the survey found that many Americans identified certain rights as being explicitly granted by the Constitution and its amendments when, in fact, they are not. For example, 78 percent of Americans believe that the right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution. Although the Constitution and its amendments contain provisions for the direct election of members of Congress and protections against voting discrimination, there is no explicit or all-encompassing constitutional right to vote.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe the pursuit of happiness is a constitutionally protected right. In fact, it is the Declaration of Independence that discussed certain unalienable rights, including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." However, the pursuit of happiness is
neither mentioned nor protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Similarly, 28 percent of Americans believe there is a right to public education in the Constitution, while 12 percent believe there is a constitutional right to housing and a right to health care.
"The survey shows that Americans have a great belief in the power of our Constitution and understand that it remains an important protector of our freedoms," said Arthur Miller, Bruce Bromley Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. "Thus, perhaps they can be forgiven for believing that it guarantees us more than even the authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights intended to cover when they wrote them more than 200 years ago."
The survey was conducted for FindLaw.com by Harris Interactive, using a demographically balanced sample of 1,000 American adults, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.
More information on the U.S. Constitution, including the complete text of the document, commentary by leading legal scholars on constitutional issues, and links to U.S. Constitution resources at the National Archives, Library of Congress and National Constitution Center can be found at http://public.findlaw.com/constitution-day.
The following is the percentage of American adults who correctly identified rights that are contained in the Constitution and its amendments:
93% Freedom of speech
89% Right to free expression of religion
86% Freedom of press
83% Right to fair and speedy jury trial in criminal cases
83% Freedom of assembly
The percentage of American adults who believe the following rights are
contained in the Constitution and its amendments:
78% Right to vote
64% Right to pursuit of happiness
28% Right to public education
12% Right to housing
12% Right to health care
Wow, I didn't think Americans knew the Constitution that well at all. Confusing the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution isn't that bad a thing, imho, so really, I'm not sure what you're upset about.
I think the fact that half of all Americans still think Saddam hatched 9/11 is much more serious.
I agree with Mark. I expected much worse. Like, a significant percentage that believe that they are granted free cookies and candy or something.
Mark, I think confusing the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution IS a bad thing.
There's 14% of the population out there that don't know that freedom of the press is guaranteed in this country... and 11% who apparently aren't aware the government can't endorse a religion.
Frankly, the fact that people don't find that upsetting is, well, even more upsetting.
I wonder how many of these same people gave me the big lecture on voting a couple of weeks ago?
Who cares? It's a "living, breathing document". We can just make the shit up as we go along anyway, right?
I agree with Bob. It is scary that people confuse the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Citizens should understand the different purposes of each document, what is in them, and why each is important - I don't think people should be confusing them or their contents. I wonder how the 64% who think the government is supposed to guarantee their right to the pursuit of happiness think that is done.
I'm also one of the ones who "lectured" you on voting a few weeks ago. I would have gotten the vast majority of the rights correct, maybe not 100%, but I think I would have been close. I certainly would have answered correctly on the ones you listed.
I guess I am less upset about the 14% who don't know that freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Constitution or the 11% who don't know that it prohibits state endorsement of religion than I am by the rather larger percent that apparently know it is in the Constitution but don't think it should be.
As for the Constitution not guaranteeing the right to vote, I think one can be forgiven for reading Article IV, Section 4 and the 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments and concluding that the right to vote is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, even if scholars want to quibble with that interpretation.
And, finally, are you certain that the Constitution does not guarantee "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?" Isn't that really the point of the 14th amendment?
I suppose if we wanted to really stir up a bee's nest, we could've thrown a thing about "privacy" into the questions.