Civic Literacy Report: Elected Officials Know Less than the General Public

I could also title this post “Yet Another Reason for Year of Youth.”

ISI recently conducted a civic literacy survey with 2,508 people and found that those who had held elected office scored an average of 44% vs. 49% for those never elected.

Among the more tragic statistics about elected officials from the report:

  • Seventy-nine percent of those who have been elected to government office do not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the U.S.
  • Thirty percent do not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
  • Twenty-seven percent cannot name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.
  • Forty-three percent do not know what the Electoral College does. One in five thinks it either “trains those aspiring for higher political office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.”
  • Fifty-four percent do not know the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. Thirty-nine percent think that power belongs to the president, and 10% think it belongs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Only 32% can properly define the free enterprise system, and only 41% can identify business profit as “revenue minus expenses.”

I’m guessing that the average Year of Youth participant — or even YAL member in general — could ace this test.  (I’m pretty sure that I could, though I admit I’m a little fuzzy on Sputnik.)  This is a great example of how much we need a new generation with a strong understanding of liberty, history, and the Constititution to win on principle.

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