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Opinion | Roughly half of Americans can’t correctly answer these 3 basic questions about our government | Richard Ransom

Every year the Annenberg Public Policy Center asks Americans how much we know about the basics of American government.
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In Tuesday’s Ransom Note: maybe one reason we're so divided as a country is how little we know about our country.

Every year the Annenberg Public Policy Center asks Americans how much we know about the basics of American government. One question is, “Can you name all three branches of government?” In 2006, only 33% of Americans answered correctly with the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. But in 2021, that number climbed to 56%, which is not great, but at least it’s an improvement.

When asked what are the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment just four years ago, most Americans could only name one. This year, more than half of respondents could name at least three, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press.

Researchers believe one reason our basic knowledge is better is due to a huge increase of politics in our media diets, but that basic knowledge doesn't mean we understand our government.

For example: does the First Amendment require Facebook to let all Americans express themselves freely on its platform? 74% incorrectly said yes when in reality, Facebook can block any customer it wants.

Finally, nearly half of all Americans incorrectly said arresting the January 6 Capitol rioters violated their constitutional rights. We're making progress, but we still have a long way to go.

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