Poll – New Jerseyans need refresher course on U.S. Constitution
A new Stockton University poll suggests New Jerseyans' knowledge of the nation's high court and Constitution needs a tuneup.
The poll of more than 800 Garden Staters found only one in 4 (26 percent) know that John Roberts is the Chief Justice. More than half (54 percent) couldn't name a single U.S. Supreme Court Justice and more than 6 in 10 (62 percent) did not know there are nine Justices.
Other examples of respondents falling short:
- Only 52 percent identified the judiciary as the branch of the federal government that has the power to declare state and federal laws unconstitutional;
- Many respondents were just unsure which level of government could declare laws unconstitutional;
- Only 52 percent identified the judiciary as the branch of government with the power to declare laws unconstitutional;
- 44 percent were not aware that Supreme Court decision cannot be appealed to the president to be reviewed or reversed;
- 40 percent did not know that the Constitution's first 10 Amendments are known as the Bill of Rights;
- 10 percent of New Jersey residents could not name any of the freedoms in the Constitution, (speech, religion, assembly and the press), guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Stockton Political Science Professor Linda Wharton said the results are discouraging.
"I was disappointed in the low levels of knowledge," she said. "I don't think it is unique to New Jersey. In fact there have been national surveys on this, and time and time again, they have found that the American public in general know shockingly little about the court and the Constitution."
According to Wharton, there is one that is frequently cited from 1989 that found that 71 percent of the respondents couldn't name a single justice on the Supreme Court. But she says about half of them were able to identify Judge Wapner, who was the judge on, "The People's Court" television show.
There were some positive findings, however:
- More than 8 in 10 (85 percent) know the Constitution can be amended;
- 3 in 4 (75 percent) know justices need a presidential nomination.;
- 75 percent correctly identified that a two-thirds vote of the U.S. House and Senate and ratification by three-fourth of the states are needed for an amendment;
- More than three-quarters believe that Presidential and U.S. Senate candidates' positions on appointments to the Supreme Court are important for voters to know.
What does all this knowledge of the high court and its workings really mean? According to Wharton, "those who have higher knowledge about these topics tend to be better at voting in elections."
"If you understand that it is the president who is nominating Supreme Court justices, then when you vote for the president, that would be a factor that you would consider in making your choice."