When it comes to knowledge about the U.S. Constitution, political system, public policy, and national and world leaders, Utahns fail the test.
That’s because Utahans received a “D” grade on civic knowledge in a recent study conducted by the Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University.
What the study says: The UVU study involved surveying 942 adults in Utah last fall. The researchers, led by Jay DeSart, chair of UVU’s Department of History and Political Science, asked a series of factual and opinion questions to assess knowledge of civic and political systems.
While 57% of respondents were able to identify the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial, for those following at home – fewer were able to name the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment, which includes freedom of religion And freedom of the press. Only 37% correctly identified the religion and 18% knew about freedom of the press.
One in five knew that John Roberts is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. While that’s slightly better than the national average, it shows “an alarming erosion of trust in civic institutions among Utahns,” a university press release said.
And civic education? A second survey paints a rosier picture of civics in the state. Researchers surveyed more than 500 social studies and fourth- and fifth-grade teachers about how they teach civics.
The results show that most teachers understand the importance of civic education and strive to devote time to it, but report that they often lack the resources and time to focus on the subject.
“Both surveys highlight a disturbing, yet puzzling, gap between Utah teachers’ commitment to civics and both the inability to remember basic civic facts and waning faith in civics. civic institutions among Utah’s adult population,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Studies. “It is critical that we understand this gap and its causes.”
Why is this important: Basic civic knowledge and participation is a key component of constitutional governance in the United States.
Both surveys are part of UVU’s Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative, which was created by the Utah Legislature in 2021. The Legislature stipulated that the initiative would “facilitate nonpartisan political discussion and provide education and civic research.