Civic Knowledge of Utahns

A statewide survey on a series of civics-knowledge questions finds that the average Utahn is “failing” in civics understanding.

Conducted by Jay A. DeSart, Chair of History and Political Science, Utah Valley University

In a statewide survey conducted by Utah Valley University [UVU] along with the polling firm YouGov, Utahns generally did not fare very well when it came to demonstrating their level of civic knowledge. On a series of civic knowledge questions, the average Utahn only got slightly better than 50% correct. That suggests that, as a whole, they would perhaps earn a D at best on the “test.”

The survey, which was conducted online as a part of UVU’s Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative, asked a representative sample of 942 Utahns a number of factual questions about the U.S. Constitution and political system, public policy, and assorted national and world political leaders. The questions were selected from surveys that have been administered to national samples by other major polling organizations to allow for comparison between Utahns and the rest of the country. Overall, respondents in the Utah sample fared no better or worse than those in the national samples.

There were 21 questions on the survey assessing the amount of information respondents had about various topics. Questions ranged from being able to identify the three branches of the US Government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) and the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment (Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition), to those identifying the office held by various leaders both in the U.S., like Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House) and Kamala Harris (Vice President), and foreign countries like Angela Merkel (German Chancellor) and Vladimir Putin (Russian President).

The easiest question for Utahns to answer asked about the U.S. budget deficit and whether it is larger or smaller than it was in the 1990s, the last time the U.S. Government ran a budget surplus. 87% of Utahns correctly indicated that the deficit was larger. The most difficult question was when respondents were asked to name the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. While 73% could name the freedom of speech, the most frequently mentioned right, only 8% could identify the right to petition government for redress of grievances (protest). Figure 1 below shows each question and its distribution of correct responses.

To learn more about the survey results, click on the links below.


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