There are many Americans who will devoutly express their love and unswerving patriotism for their country. So when a poll of 1,000 Americans revealed that 2/3 of Americans couldn’t name a single Supreme Court justice, you might consider that reason for alarm. However, according to Michael C. Dorf, a former Supreme Court clerk, the results are not particularly surprising considering the fact that the Court issues its rulings as a collective body on pertinent issues and rarely appears on television.
What is reason for alarm is when important political figures, like Michigan Gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder, the self-described “nerd”, can’t name the justices sitting on Michigan’s Supreme Court. In fact, on Off the Record with Tim Scubick, Snyder couldn’t name the Chief Justice on Michigan’s Supreme Court.
Moreover, it is concerning that another recent poll gauging Americans’ knowledge of civics and Revolutionary-era history discovered horrifying gaps in Americans’ knowledge of the American Revolution. Specifically, with the recent political movement known as the “Tea Party”, which claims the Revolutionary-era Tea Party as its inspiration, it would make sense that more respondents would be able to identify the purpose of that historical movement. However, that was not the case since 89% of the 1,001 Americans polled failed the survey’s test. Overall, the survey found that:
• More Americans could identify Michael Jackson as the composer of “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” than could identify the Bill of Rights as a body of amendments to the Constitution.
• More than 50 percent of respondents attributed the quote “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs” to either Thomas Paine, George Washington or President Obama. The quote is from Karl Marx, author of “The Communist Manifesto.”
• More than a third did not know the century in which the American Revolution took place, and half of respondents believed that either the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation or the War of 1812 occurred before the American Revolution.
• With a political movement now claiming the mantle of the Revolutionary-era Tea Party, more than half of respondents misidentified the outcome of the 18th-century agitation as a repeal of taxes, rather than as a key mobilization of popular resistance to British colonial rule.
• A third mistakenly believed that the Bill of Rights does not guarantee a right to a trial by jury, while 40 percent mistakenly thought that it did secure the right to vote.
• More than half misidentified the system of government established in the Constitution as a direct democracy, rather than a republic-a question that must be answered correctly by immigrants qualifying for U.S. citizenship.
Luckily, 90% of Americans said that they thought it was important to know the history of the American Revolution.