The ________ Branches of Government

AP Government and Politics

What portion of Americans can correctly identify the three branches of government?

  1. How wildly inaccurate was your prediction?

  2. How sad is that information, tho?

  3. If you knew a person who could not name the three branches of government would you let them still be your friend? And what would you think of them?

  4. 1/3 of all the Americans surveyed could not name a single branch. WHAT THE WHAT?

  5. Can you name all three branches?

  6. Can you name all four? (j/k)

  7. What is the big story this data tells?

  8. If you had to list the top causes that explain the results of this survey what would you list as the top three:

  9. What is one consequence of this level of knowledge of the U.S. Government?

  10. If the average Democrat and Republican were shown the information above and asked to comment on it, how different would their responses be?

  11. Is this information good news for Donald Trump or bad news?

  12. Is there any connection between this information and the 2016 election? Share your answer to this question in the comments section below!

  13. Hey, smarty pants. Why do we have three branches of government anyway?

  14. In Federalist No. 51 (1788), James Madison explains and defends the checks and balances system in the Constitution. Each branch of government is framed so that its power checks the power of the other two branches; additionally, each branch of government is dependent on the people, who are the source of legitimate authority. In Fed. 51, Madison calls the people, “the fountain of authority.” If the vast majority of the people can’t even name the three branches of government should they still be the fountain of authority?

  15. Do you imagine that Americans were any better at naming the three branches back in the 18th century when George Washington was president?

  16. Is it actually important to know the kind of information that you could look up on any smart phone in about 5 seconds?

  17. How different do you think the results of this survey will be in 20 years?

  18. Who do you think would do better at identifying the three branches of government, Justin Bieber (Canadian), the actor who plays Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) in the Harry Potter Movies (English), PewDiePie (Swedish), or the average 10th grader (American) at your school? Explain your answer.

  19. Why do you think that 1% of the people who took this survey “refused” to answer? were they insulted by how easy the survey was? What does “refused” even mean?

  20. Are you depressed about this? I am. Let's talk. Tell me how you feel:

  21. What are some other important facts about our government that you imagine would also be unknown to many Americans?

  22. Any foreign born American who wants to become a citizen will have to pass a citizenship test where they will have to know the answer to this kind of question. Do you think that this kind of questions should be required for citizenship?

  23. Claim: in order to vote any American citizen should have to prove that they can name the three branches of government and answer other important questions about the U.S. Government. Respond to this claim.

  24. List one consequence of requiring a citizenship style test before people are allowed to vote.

  25. Congratulations, you get to title the chart above. What would you name it?

  26. Which of the charts below* is the most depressing?

  27. What percent of statistics are made up on the spot?**


Learning Extension

Read the Annenberg Public Policy report on this survey and weep.

Action Extension (do one of the following)

1-Take a mini-practice citizenship test online and share your results in class or online.

2-Ask ten people to name the three branches of government and share your results in class or online.

* Bonus Smarts Charts

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Okay, Mr. 3% who can name Freedom to petition! Happy now?

Okay, Mr. 3% who can name Freedom to petition! Happy now?