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Perhaps to no one’s surprise, a recent survey found that most Americans know far more about television hits than they know about the United States Constitution. For instance, 52% of Americans surveyed could name at least two characters from The Simpsons, and 41% could name at least two judges from American Idol. Meanwhile, a mere 28% could identify more than one of the rights protected by the First Amendment.

Surveys such as this help clear up one of the apparent mysteries of the last five years: How did we change so quickly from a nation in which the rule of law seemed deeply entrenched to a nation that has seen an astonishingly successful executive power grab?

The answer, is that many Americans—including those who serve in Congress—neither know nor care very much about our constitutional system. Although the subject of constitutional checks and balances is a matter of endless interest to most of the people who populate America’s law schools, the rule of law and the protection of constitutional rights turn out to be matters of extreme indifference to quite a few of our fellow citizens.

Publication Citation

115 Yale L.J. (The Pocket Part) 88-91 (2006)