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Elected officials are dumber than man on the street

January 15, 2011

Opinion: Elected Officials Flunk Constitution Quiz.

File this in the “well that’s damn obvious” category.

According to a national survey done by the Intercolllegiate Studies Institute, our elected officials know less than the average American about the Constitution and our government in general.  I will let their spokesman describe the survey:

For five years now, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has been conducting a national survey to gauge the quality of civic education in the country. We’ve surveyed more than 30,000 Americans, most of them college students, but also a random sample of adults from all educational and demographic backgrounds.

Included in the adult sample was a small subset of Americans (165 in all) who, when asked, identified themselves as having been “successfully elected to government office at least once in their life” — which can include federal, state or local offices.

The survey asks 33 basic civics questions, many taken from other nationally recognized instruments like the U.S. Citizenship Exam. It also asks 10 questions related to the U.S. Constitution.

The results are not pretty:

But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question

Admittedly, the average citizen scored pretty damn low as well.  So to summarize, we don’t know our government or Constitution for crap, but at least our people who swear an oath to defend it know even less.  Here is one example that drives the point home:

And only 57 percent of those who’ve held elective office know what the Electoral College does, while 66 percent of the public got that answer right. (Of elected officials, 20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for “training those aspiring for higher political office.”)

20 percent?  Holy crap!  Damn, maybe we need their version of the Electoral College.  Or…maybe our schools could teach our government instead of…well, you know.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2011 2:22 pm

    The electoral college thing surprised me. Not how low it was by our officials but how high it was by the public.

    • January 15, 2011 3:23 pm

      Yeah, many of the results were surprising for the same reasons.

  2. January 15, 2011 3:25 pm

    Sadly, this confirms what most of us have known for years.

    • January 15, 2011 3:39 pm

      Yeah, not really news, but nice to know our suspicions have been verified. Or…ignorance is bliss. Maybe its better not to know.

  3. January 15, 2011 4:13 pm

    Maybe we should make that test a prerequisite to vote with a minimum score of 70 required.

    • January 15, 2011 4:23 pm

      How about to serve in office – I mean if you are going to swear an oath on something, you should probably understand what you are supposed to be protecting. Maybe that’s why none of them give a crap about whether the legislation they propose is Constitutional or not.

  4. JustFacts permalink
    January 15, 2011 5:52 pm

    Everybody needs to go to the website and take the test. It is not easy, but it is not tremendously hard. The test is at

    It is only 33 questions long, and is multiple guess. Come back and report your scores here. My theory is that people that frequent conservative blogs are much more intelligent than the average citizen. I scored 97%, got one wrong. Let’s see what others score.

    • January 15, 2011 6:19 pm

      Hmm, I didn’t do as good as you, 84.85%. But, of the five I got wrong, the correct answer was my second guess (if that counts for anything, lol).

      • JustFacts permalink
        January 15, 2011 6:55 pm

        That’s a pretty good score. Per the website, “The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%.” It said the average score for January was 74.9%.

      • January 15, 2011 7:17 pm

        That 55% score for college educators is just sad. But, so is the fact that elected officials scored the lowest.

    • January 16, 2011 4:26 pm

      thanks for that. I missed four. Dang, what do I know about Puritans anyway?

      • January 16, 2011 4:59 pm

        Hmm, I think I got that one wrong too.

  5. January 16, 2011 9:48 pm

    Well, I scored 87.88%…missed four. Guess I need to study up some, eh?


    • January 16, 2011 11:45 pm

      So far, I am low scorer. =(


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