- few know much about politics and world affairs;
- around half know enough to answer elementary questions; and
- all others know virtually nothing.
In the 1980s, less than a third knew Roe v. Wade was a 1970s Supreme Court abortion ruling. Only one-fourth understood senators serve six years. Only 20% knew America has 100 senators. Around 40% knew the nation has three branches of government, but few can explain what separation of powers entails.
Less than half knew America dropped the atom bomb on Japan. In response to a 2005 Gallup poll asking to name America's greatest president, only 14% choose Lincoln and 5% Washington.
Only a third know Congress alone can declare war, or that it can override a president's veto. Around half think the chief executive can suspend the Constitution.
In their book titled, "What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters," Michael Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter found only 5% could answer basic economics questions, 11% domestic issues ones, 14% foreign affairs topics, and 10% on geography. Only 25% answered most history questions right.
In 2003, the Strategic Task Force on Education Abroad said, "America's ignorance of the outside world" is so extreme, it threatens national security.
One survey showed nearly one-fourth of Americans able to name all five Simpson family members, compared to one in 1,000 correctly stating all five First Amendment freedoms.
They include free expression, a free press, freedom of religion, the right to assemble peaceably, and to petition government for redress of grievances, as well as the implied rights of association and belief.
Free expression in all forms is most important. Without it, all other rights are at risk.
In 2011, Newsweek magazine gave 1,000 Americans the US citizenship test . The results showed profound ignorance:
- 38% failed;
- 29% couldn't name the vice president;
- 73% knew little or nothing about the Cold War;
- 40% didn't know why America fought Germany, Japan and Italy in WW II;