It’s an interesting question. I mean, here on TTAG we talk a lot about the 2nd Amendment, and exercise our 1st and 2nd Amendment rights on a daily basis. Of course, the Tea Party phenomenon has made the Constitution a hot topic, and those on the left have made a career out of telling us either that the Constitution is outdated, it’s a “living document” (which is code for “we can interpret it in whatever way we see fit”) or that it needs changing/we should just ignore it. But everyone who wants to have a voice in this discussion should at least know something about what the Constitution says, dontcha think?

A group called the Intercollegiate Studies Institute wanted to know just how much the American public knows about the Constitution, and Civics in general. So they prepared a quiz and gave it to a random sample of 2,500 people. 164 of the respondents self-identified as government officials – federal, state or local. Now you’d think that anybody who’s in the business of governing would have a pretty good grip on the basics, right? I mean, you’d expect them to know, say, how many branches of government there are, or what does the 1st Amendment actually cover. You’d assume that they would know what the Electoral College is, and some stuff about gun rights. And you’d be wrong. Apparently, a lot of our elected officials are in need of a crash course on Civics. They scored lower than the national average on the test.

Okay, campers – time to suck it up and put your keyboard where your mouth is. Here’s a link to the test. I can tell you that I missed only three questions (and I’m kinda cheesed that I missed those, but they were especially tricky ones), giving me a score of 90.9%, which back in the day, at least, would have earned an “A” (okay, and A minus, but who’s counting). The national average? Under 50%. I’m betting the TTAGencia will do quite a bit better on this than that national average. Oh, and to be fair, I hereby issue a friendly challenge to the likes of MikeB302000, and any others on the Left who care to take the quiz, and have the stones to post their results here. But no cheating (for us OR them)…this is not an open-book quiz.

So…how do you measure up?

37 Responses to How Well Do You Know Your Constitutional Rights?

  1. I missed one. But who cares? The libertarian bias in the test was appalling. Reminded me of the Foreign Service exam, which asked, “Which of the following is NOT a cause of African poverty and instability?” The correct answer turned out to be: The legacy of colonialism. Which is pretty funny, given that the legacy of colonialism is a primary cause of African poverty and instability. But not, of course, if that’s not what you want to believe.

    • “The libertarian bias in the test was appalling”? Dan…come into the light…come into the light!

      But you do raise an interesting point. Like the classic courtroom question, “Answer ‘YES’ or ‘NO’: Do you still beat your wife?,” it is fairly easy for anyone to introduce bias into a quiz. I did a lot of work on a site for the Georiga Civil Justice Foundataion – http://www.fairplay.org. I created 13 animations (working on #14 as we speak) and designed the site. What was interesting is that as a Conservative, I functioned as sort of a ‘loyal opposition’ or Conservative Conscience for the project, as the rest of those connected to the project lean to the Left. Their mission statement was to try and strike a neutral position, free of bias, on the Civil Justice topics they covered. We served as sort of a left/right balance for each other, as I reminded them (early and often) when they made statements in which I detected a Left-leaning bias, while they made sure I didn’t sneak (much) Conservative dogma into the animations. It was an interesting project and process. And it really pointed out to me the dangers of surrounding yourself exclusively with those who think like you do – it’s far too easy to fall into the trap where you start to believe everyone thinks like you do (See: NPR).

  2. 90.1%, missed 3, including 2 I couldn’t remember and one where I knew the answer as soon as I hit submit but it was too late. Worth a try if you haven’t.

  3. 100% Way too easy, not broad enough in scope (IMHO) and fairly stilted. But it does make a reasonably good jumping off point for starting a conversation.

  4. Thanks that was fun.

    You answered 25 out of 33 correctly — 75.76 %

    Answers to Your Missed Questions:
    Question #7 – D. Gettysburg Address
    Question #8 – C. appoint additional Supreme Court justices who shared his views
    Question #14 – B. stressed the sinfulness of all humanity
    Question #27 – A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends
    Question #29 – B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
    Question #30 – C. decreasing taxes and increasing spending
    Question #31 – A. an increase in a nation’s productivity
    Question #33 – D. tax per person equals government spending per person

    • If it’s any consolation, I thought #30 was kind of a trick question (asking what a government is likely to do, as opposed to what they SHOULD do), and #33 was kind of ambiguous. But thanks for taking the quiz!

      • There was another trick question too. I had to lie to get it right.

        6) The Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits:
        A. prayer in public school
        B. discrimination based on race, sex, or religion
        C. the ownership of guns by private individuals
        D. establishing an official religion for the United States
        E. the president from vetoing a line item in a spending bill

        The correct answer is B and C.

  5. You answered 33 out of 33 correctly — 100.00 %

    Average score for this quiz during January: 75.8%

    You can take the quiz as often as you like, however, your score will only count once toward the monthly average.

    Although to get them all I had to dope for the liberal bias 😉

  6. During the last presidential campaign I watched a clip of candidate McCain chatting with co-host Caryn Johnson (better known as Whoopi Goldberg). During the course of the discussion, McCain made reference to the Constitution. Goldberg smacked his argument aside, saying that the constitution was a racist document because it said that blacks only counted for 3/5 of a vote.

    Great, I thought, an opportunity for a teaching moment. McCain can tell her that the 3/5 thing 1) was enacted as a penalty to southern states for allowing slavery, 2) did not apply to free blacks, and 3) didn’t restrict blacks from voting, but applied to the calculation of congressional districting. As such, the 3/5 language in the constitution was really an anti-slavery initiative and a good thing, not a racist slight.

    But no. Rather than correcting Ms. Goldberg’s misunderstanding of the Constitution, McCain nodded and said, “You may have a point there.” And this was the best the Republicans could muster in 2008. Clearly he deserved to lose.

  7. You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

    Average score for this quiz during January: 75.9%

    You can take the quiz as often as you like, however, your score will only count once toward the monthly average.

    And of the 4 I missed, I believe only 1 really had anything directly to do with the Constitution.

  8. You answered 28 out of 33 correctly — 84.85 %
    Average score for this quiz during January: 75.8%

    Looks like I helped drag January’s average down .1%….

  9. You answered 28 out of 33 correctly — 84.85 %

    Question #7 – D. Gettysburg Address
    Question #14 – B. stressed the sinfulness of all humanity
    Question #27 – A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends
    Question #29 – B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
    Question #33 – D. tax per person equals government spending per person

    I was a bit confused by the wording of some of the questions, even some of the ones I got right.

    • That would be fun. Say, a quiz of the month? Start with the Constitution since that’s a bit in vogue these days, what with it’s being read (unprecedented?) at the opening of the current session of Congress. 75 – 100 questions, 75%/25% split on the text and the remainder on the amendments, go all over the map. Make it tough.

  10. You answered 33 out of 33 correctly — 100.00 %
    To be fair, I’m a high school senior in multiple civics classes (AP US Gov, AP Econ, and AP Comparative Politics), so this is all pretty fresh for me. I hope I’ll still be this good in 10-15 years. Brad, your comment about hanging out with people like you is pretty accurate. And it can definitely apply to those of us who consider ourselves part of the “gun culture.” I definitely get the urge to talk with non-gun people (not anti-gun so much as they just don’t really follow the issue much) to get their views on gun issues.

    • Good point, Lance. Talking to the antis is like volunteering for an unnecessary root canal, but talking to non-gun people is productive. Many of my friends, being from NYC, were non-gun, and now they get it. I also get some of their trepedation about guns. Interestingly, all of the women who shot with me for the first time used the same word to describe the experience: “empowering.” The guys just thought it was cool.

  11. I just hate to brag but:

    You answered 33 out of 33 correctly — 100.00 %

    Average score for this quiz during January: 75.9%

  12. You answered 27 out of 33 correctly — 81.82 %

    Average score for this quiz during January: 75.9%

    Answers to Your Missed Questions:

    Question #4 – B. Would slavery be allowed to expand to new territories?
    Question #8 – C. appoint additional Supreme Court justices who shared his views
    Question #10 – C. Religion
    Question #11 – A. their arguments helped lead to the adoption of the Bill of Rights
    Question #22 – A. Congress
    Question #33 – D. tax per person equals government spending per person

    Sad about #10, and still a B- gets me a diploma nonetheless…

    Yes a gun quiz would be great…

  13. “As such, the 3/5 language in the constitution was really an anti-slavery initiative and a good thing, not a racist slight.”
    Wow. Just wow.

    • Karl…I’m curious. Are you maintaining that the 3/5ths language IS an example of racism? Let me tell you why I believe it most certainly is not.

      I am a child of television. I grew up at a time when black & white sets were the norm, there were but three stations in most markets, and color sets, remote controls, cable TV, satellite dishes, and VCRs/DVRs were science fiction. Life was different then. TV was more of a “global village” experience. Every kid I knew watched the same shows, at the same time, or they risked being ostracized from the group for lack of common knowledge. I remember being fascinated by the show Bewitched, with Elizabeth Montgomery, both by the magic and the fact that she was a major babe. I had the opportunity to catch two episodes, back to back, not long ago, on late-nite TV. The color episode was a little dated, but not too badly. Samantha eschewed the pearls, gloves and pumps favored by TV icons like Harriet Nelson. She dressed the way many women did in the 60s. Then I caught the earlier show, in black & white. Big difference, and I’m not talking about the color vs. B&W thing. In this early episode, Sam was meek and subservient to Darrin. He gave the orders, and she tried to obey, even when her magic got in the way.

      Why in the world is this relevant? Because the world changed between the debut of that show, and it’s final seasons. The show had to change along with the world, or be left behind. Was a wife being subservient to a husband wrong? Today it is. Back then, it was far more commonplace than many would like to remember. And that era was more egalitarian than a generation before…I remember my grandfather clapping his hands, and my grandmother would come scurrying in to serve him. If my dad had tried that with my mom, he’d a been wearing a coffeepot as a hat.

      Times change. Standards change. What is acceptable changes. I would bet that if you could jump into a time machine, you’d find many alive during the American Revolution that hated slavery, but thought of it as inevitable as the sun coming up in the morning. None of this excuses the enslavement of one man at the hand of another. Slavery is evil. But we see that now with clarity. Back then, it was established as a way of life. Our founding fathers were divided on the issue. It took almost 100 years for the matter to be decided, once and for all. For you to condemn the Constitution (as I assume you are, maybe I’m wrong) for the 3/5ths language is both short-sighted and historically, flat-out wrong. Think of this in the same way as any recent legislation that was compromised until it was partially defanged in order to pass. (The ObamaCare mess springs to mind.) Making laws is an imperfect, messy process. Oftentimes, compromises are made that, in retrospect, seem wrong. At the time, it was the only way to get the Constitution passed.

      We look at history from a perspective of having read the last chapter first. We know how the story ends. And I think, in this case, at least, you’re judging 18th Century behavior by 21st Century standards. And that is unrealistic, and unfair to the men that literally, created a new form of government that is far and away, the best the world has ever seen.

      • Brad,
        sorry, but I surely am not condemning the Constitution–the greatest example of Enlightenment thought ever created. My training is in medieval history and literature, so I sure understand the idea of historical contexts.
        I did choose a poor part of the post to quote. My reaction was to the implication that the 3/5 rule was “punishment” to southern states. This is just wrong (though Mr. Beck did make the exact claim a week ago or so on his show).
        I do appreciate your thoughtful post, though.
        Karl

  14. Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the US Constitution that says, “Representatives… shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons… and three fifths of all other Persons.” Thus handicapped, the southern states lacked the legislative power to block an 1807 law that banned the importation of slaves.

    Article 1, Section 9 gave the slave state cover for just 20 years (until 1808). After that, congress was free to outlaw the importation of slaves. Without the Article 1 handicap placed on slaveholding states, the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807, which banned the importation of slaves effective January 1, 1808 (the earliest allowable date), likely could not have passed.

    Not only did the 1807 law criminalize the importation of slaves, but it classified the practice as piracy, punishable by death. The 1807 law was later amended and strengthened by the so-called 1820 Piracy Law. Nathaniel Gordon, who was caught trying to smuggle 897 slaves (mostly children), into the country, became the only American to be executed under these laws. He was hanged February 21, 1862.

    So yes, I believe the three-fifths ratio for counting slaves (of any color – and remember free blacks have always been counted fully) was a good thing.

    • William: It’s been a few years since I studied Constitutional History but as I recall, the representatives of the non-slave states didn’t think that slaves should count for any representation at all.

      At that time, slaves were property and it certainly cannot be said that the representatives of South Carolina “represented” the interests of the slaves. Therefore slaves should not have counted as 3/5 of a person, they should have counted as 0 for representative persons.

      However, once the representatives from the Slave states realized how this would handicap them against the free states in the House, they demanded full representation on a 1/1 basis. The 3/5 was a compromise with the free-staters.

      • You are correct. Abolitionist states such as New York and Massachusetts wanted to really stick it to the slaveholders by not counting any of their “property” for calculating representation. The slave states insisted that their slaves be counted as whole persons. (It’s all very ironic, isn’t it?)

        The issue was debated years earlier when an amendment to the Articles of Confederation was being considered. At that time, James Madison negotiated the compromise number of 3/5, which became known as the “Federal ratio.” The AOC amendment died (i.e. was never ratified into law), but when the issue reared its ugly head 1787 Constitutional Convention, delegates resurrected Madison’s compromise ratio.

  15. i know that in high school (i graduated in 08) that in economics we were taught that the textbook answer to a recession is to lower taxes and increase spending.

  16. Finally got around to taking the test. Missed 3. Economics is not my strength. When I was in college in the 60s, I changed majors to avoid taking further required economics classes.

    As of today, average score is 76%.

  17. You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

    Answers to Your Missed Questions:
    Question #4 – B. Would slavery be allowed to expand to new territories?
    Question #7 – D. Gettysburg Address
    Question #8 – C. appoint additional Supreme Court justices who shared his views
    Question #33 – D. tax per person equals government spending per person

    Not to bad for a high school grad who’s been out of school for twenty years. I’m disappointed that I missed 4 and 7. 8 really threw me, and 33 confused me. The one thing I don’t understand is how did FDR propose appointing additional justices? Was he threatening to pass a constitutional amendment?

    • The number of justices of the Supreme Court is not set by the constitution, it is set by congress. The number of justices changed over the first hundred years or so, starting at six in 1789, jumping to a high of ten in 1863, and dropping down to seven in 1866, before settling in at nine, the number set by the Judiciary Act of 1869.

      In order to stack the court with justices who would allow him to do whatever he wanted, Roosevelt proposed to expand the court to twelve justices with the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937. Recognized as a naked attempt to expand the role of the federal government beyond the constitutionally established boundaries that had been respected for 150 years, the bill met tremendous public opinion, which meant its death in congress.

      FDR lost that battle, but he won the war. Due to his long tenure as president, he was able to appoint eight of the nine justices that were on the court when he died, so in the end he was able to get what he wanted anyway.

  18. 29 of 33.

    My missed questions
    Question #4 – B. Would slavery be allowed to expand to new territories?
    Question #7 – D. Gettysburg Address
    Question #13 – E. certain permanent moral and political truths are accessible to human reason
    Question #33 – D. tax per person equals government spending per person

    So I guess I did alright. Not bad for a more or less broke college student.

  19. 30 out of 33 correctly — 90.91 %

    Question #29 – B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
    Question #30 – C. decreasing taxes and increasing spending
    Question #31 – A. an increase in a nation’s productivity

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