ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

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Constitution Day Survey

September 8, 2015

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) today released a survey that shows how little college graduates and the general public know about the Constitution. According to the study, nearly 10% of college graduates think Judith Sheindlin—commonly known as Judge Judy—is on the Supreme Court; one-third of college graduates can’t identify the Bill of Rights as a name given to a group of Constitutional amendments; and 32% believe that Representative John Boehner is the current president of the U.S. Senate. Shockingly, 46% of college grads don’t know the election cycle—six years for senators, two years for representatives. Turning to the general population, the report finds that over half (54%) of those surveyed cannot identify the Bill of Rights accurately, and over one in ten (11%) of those ages 25–34 believe that the Constitution must be reauthorized every four years.

The survey was conducted by GfK August 28–30 among a sample of 1,000 adults nationwide, ages 18+, using the GfK KnowledgePanel—a representative, probability-based online panel that covers 97% of the American public. The sample was weighted by age, sex, education, race, household income, metro/non-metro status, internet status, and geographic region. The margin of error on weighted data is +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample and is higher for subgroups.

Percentages are rounded to the nearest point; therefore, totals do not always add to 100. For the full results of the survey, click here.

 

College Graduates:

Q1: Which of the following people serves on the U.S. Supreme Court?

A. Elena Kagan – 62%

B. Lawrence Warren Pierce – 22%

C. Judith Sheindlin – 10%

D. John Kerry – 6%

Refused – 2%

 

Q2: A trial of impeachment of a U.S. President takes place before…

A. The U.S. Senate – 49%

B. The U.S. Supreme Court – 24%

C. The U.S. House of Representatives – 25%

D.  The District of Columbia Court of Appeals – 1%

Refused – 1%

 

Q3: What is the Bill of Rights?

A. A signed petition upon which the U.S. Constitution was based – 23%

B. A name given to a group of Constitutional amendments – 67%

C. The law among the states prior to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution – 7%

D.  A list of demands sent to the British monarchy by colonial Americans – 3%

Refused – 0%

 

Q4: Which of the following powers is NOT granted to the Executive Branch by the U.S. Constitution?

A. Establishing taxes – 80%

B. Nominating Supreme Court justices – 5%

C. Granting pardons – 8%

D.  Acting as Commander-in-Chief of the military – 6%

Refused – 0%

 

Q5: Who is the current President of the Senate?

A. Joe Biden – 54%

B. John Roberts – 6%

C. John Boehner – 32%

D. Nancy Pelosi – 6%

Refused – 1%

 

Q6: Who was the “Father of the Constitution”?

A. George Mason – 2%

B. Thomas Jefferson – 59%

C. Benjamin Franklin – 10%

D. James Madison – 28%

Refused – 1%

 

Q7: How long are terms for members of Congress?

A. 6 years for senators, 2 years for representatives – 54%

B. 4 years for senators, 2 years for representatives – 28%

C. 4 years for senators, 4 years for representatives – 10%

D. 4 years for senators, 6 years for representatives – 8%

Refused – 1%

 

Q8: Which of the following is NOT protected by the First Amendment?

A. Freedom of speech – 3%

B. Right to an education – 84%

C. Right to petition the government – 10%

D. Freedom of assembly – 2%

Refused – 1%

 

Q9: The Constitution must be reauthorized every four years.

A. True – 4%

B. False – 86%

C. Don’t know – 9%

Refused – 1%

 

Q10: What is required before a proposed amendment can be approved as part of the Constitution?

A. A two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress and Presidential ratification – 43%

B. Ratification by three-fourths of the states – 42%

C. A bill of ratification passed by a supermajority of Congress – 6%

D. A two-thirds majority vote in a national referendum – 8%

Refused – 1%

 

Q11: Under the U.S. Constitution, who can declare war?

A. The President of the United States – 35%

B. Congress – 60%

C. None of the above – 3%

D. The Supreme Court – 1%

Refused – 1%

 

Q12: Habeas Corpus protects against…

A. Capital punishment – 6%

B. Cruel and unusual punishment – 17%

C. Illegal imprisonment – 66%

D. Taxation without representation – 9%

Refused – 2%

 

 

General Population:

Q3: What is the Bill of Rights?

A. A signed petition upon which the U.S. Constitution was based – 38%

B. A name given to a group of Constitutional amendments – 46%

C. The law among the states prior to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution – 11%

D.  A list of demands sent to the British monarchy by colonial Americans – 3%

Refused – 3%

 

Q9: The Constitution must be reauthorized every four years. (ages 25–34)

A. True – 11%

B. False – 62%

C. Don’t know – 25%

Refused – 2%