Constitution

The Constitution

As our nation prepares for Constitution Day on Tuesday, Americans struggle to identify key components of the guiding document that governs our country. 

Each September, Constitution Day is celebrated to recognize the adoption of the Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. Yet Americans have trouble recalling elements of the Constitution, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which aimed to find out what American’s know about the country’s history.

Only 15 percent of those surveyed knew when the U.S. Constitution was written, even on a multiple-choice exam similar to the citizenship exam, with most incorrectly thinking it occurred in 1776. 

Only 25 percent of Americans knew how many amendments there are to the U.S. Constitution. Montana residents topped the country with 30 percent of residents able to identify the correct answer, and Hawaii rounded out the list with just 17 percent able to identify that there are 27 amendments in the Constitution.

In addition, when given a multiple-choice question about the First Amendment, 25 percent of Americans didn’t know that freedom of speech was guaranteed under the First Amendment. Others identified the right to “bear arms” (11 percent) and “no one shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property” (8 percent), when in fact those are in the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively. 

Woodrow Wilson Foundation Chief Strategy Officer and Director of the WW American History Initiative Patrick Riccards sees an opportunity to support our students in new ways. Riccards said, “As students head back to school, we need to take a serious look at what our students care about, how to best engage them and meet them where they are.”

The survey is available for anyone to take at woodrow.org/americanhistory/.

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