Shortly after he was elected to the U.S. Senate last November, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville told the Alabama Daily News that the founders hadn’t intended for any one group to control all three branches of the government.
“You know, the House, the Senate, and the executive.”
So much for all those efforts to increase civics education among Americans.
At least one thing can be said of self-government. Democracy does result in leaders who are representative of the people.
This year’s Constitution Day survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that Tuberville isn’t alone. Forty-four percent of Americans also failed to correctly identify the three branches of government as the executive, legislative (which includes the House and Senate) and judicial.
That was actually a much higher figure than in previous surveys. Back in 2006, only one-third of Americans could name all three, compared with 56% today.
But is this improvement enough to make self-government really work? Is it necessary to know the three branches of government in order to vote on candidates who make their positions known on current issues? Does this ignorance explain the bitter divisions between parties and geographic regions of the country today? Does it explain how disinformation is so readily embraced by so many?
Or are other factors just as important — say the amount of trust people have in each other and the communities in which they live?
The Utah Foundation, an…