Don't Know Much About Civics: 93% of U.S. Adults Believe Civics Education Should be Bolstered in Public Schools

Posted by on April 20, 2017 at 4:18 PM

By Jacel Egan, Marketing Communications Manager, icitizen

According to a new icitizen survey released by Sen. Chuck Riley (OR-15), more than nine in 10 Americans believe that more emphasis should be placed on civics education in public schools.

“We’re living in a time now where it’s hard to tell the difference between fake news and real news, and alternative facts are being presented as truth,” said Oregon Sen. Chuck Riley. “It’s clear constituents want to address this issue head on, and as an elected official, I’m obligated to do what I can to help future generations be prepared and informed citizens.”

The poll of 1,245 U.S. adults showed fully 84% of respondents support requiring high school students to pass a proficiency test in civics in order to earn their diploma (10% oppose, 6% unsure). This crosses age, gender, and party lines, and actually increases with age: support is at 74% among millennials and reaching upwards of 95% support among seniors ages 65 and older.

Taking the requirement further, almost a three-fourths (74%) of Americans support requiring high school students to take and pass the U.S. citizenship test to demonstrate civic proficiency (21% oppose, 5% unsure). The strongest opponent of this requirement are racial minorities; about a third expressed their disapproval (34%).

"Given the dramatic increase in civic engagement after the election, it's no surprise that emphasis on civics education would be a priority across party and demographic lines," said Cynthia Villacis, icitizen's Director of Polling. "Lawmakers should be cognizant while drafting legislation to be inclusive and ensure that these proficiency tests accommodate those with special needs or language barriers."

This data underlines (in bold) the growing momentum of civic engagement we have seen since the election. People are more tuned into the importance of getting involved and have placed a stronger emphasis on the importance of an informed constituency. Including Oregon, 20 states are considering laws similar to Senate Bill 1038, and 15 already require passing a civics proficiency test to graduate high school.

According to a 2012 study out of the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University, just one in three Americans could pass the civics portion of the immigrant naturalization test. Further, in that same study, 62% could not identify the Governor of their state. Yikes.

With such high public support for government initiatives to address this issue, it's up to organizations like us in the Bridge Alliance to continue partnering with one another and our local communities to support civic engagement at all levels. Let's get to work!