Americans don't know civics
By Michelle Healy, USA TODAY
From high-school dropouts to college graduates to elected officials, Americans are "alarmingly uninformed" about the USA's history, founding principals and economy — knowledge needed to participate wisely in civic life, says a report scheduled to be released Thursday.
The study, the third in a series by the non-profit Intercollegiate Studies Institute, finds that half of U.S. adults can name all three branches of government, and 54% know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. Almost 40% incorrectly said that it belongs to the president.
And while 56% can name Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol, only 21% know that the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people" comes from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Just 54% can correctly identify a basic description of the free enterprise system.
Those who have held elected office lack civic knowledge; 43% do not know the Electoral College is a constitutionally mandated assembly that elects the president. One in five thinks it "trains those aspiring for higher office" or "was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates."