Only 39 Percent of Americans Can Name All Three Branches of Government, Poll Finds


If you thought most Americans don’t know enough about basic American civics, think again.

Because it turns out, they really, really don’t know enough about basic American civics.

The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey found a full 1 in 5 – that’s 20 percent – of all American adults can’t even name one single branch of government. On top of that, only 39 percent of adults can correctly name all three three branches. Another 25 percent could remember one branch, while 14 percent were able to name two.

Perhaps even sadder is the fact that this actually marks an improvement in civics knowledge among American adults. When it comes to those who could correctly identify all three branches, this year’s 39 percent is the highest number recorded by UPenn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center in the last half-decade. In 2017, for example, a full 33 percent of Americans said they couldn’t name a single branch of the U.S government - 13 percentage points higher than this year's survey.

Despite the uptick in civics knowledge, Annenberg researchers said the persistently discouraging statistics don’t bode well for America's future.

“While this marks an improvement, the overall results remain dismal,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said in a statement. “A quarter of U.S. adults can name only one of the three branches of government and more than a fifth can’t name any. The resilience of our system of government is best protected by an informed citizenry. And civics education and attention to news increase that likelihood.”

When asked about the current breakdown in Congress, only about half of respondents knew that Democrats presently control the House, while 61 percent knew Republicans have the majority in the U.S. Senate. 

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