ABA Releases 2023 Survey of Civic Literacy Results

The American Bar Association on April 27 released the results of its 2023 Survey of Civic Literacy

According to the announcement, the survey is released each year to mark Law Day, observed annually on May 1. The ABA said the results are from a nationally representative survey of 1,000 respondents conducted in English and Spanish by telephone March 17-22 by Dapa Research on behalf of the ABA. The margin of error is plus or minus 3%, according to the ABA.

A majority of respondents, 85%, said civility today is worse than it was 10 years ago and 29% said social media is to blame while 24% blamed “the media generally” and 19% blamed public officials. But 34% of survey takers said family and friends contributed to higher civility, 27% said it was public officials and 11% and 7% said community leaders and teachers respectively. Meanwhile, 90% of respondents said parents and family instilled civility in children. 

More survey takers, 79%, said they supported compromise in government leaders and only 13% preferred leaders hold their ground. Specifically, the ABA noted people opposed elected officials compromising on voting rights (57%) while survey takers were largely split over reproductive rights with 45% saying they wanted compromise and the same number saying they wanted elected officials to hold their ground on the issue. 

Some were in favor of compromise on gun rights (53%), Social Security (53%), immigration reform (70%) and infrastructure (75%). The ABA noted younger people seemed more willing to compromise on Social Security (61% of respondents ages 18-24). 

The ABA also said more women than men supported a compromise on gun rights at 58% and 46% respectively. Slightly more men were also willing to compromise on reproductive rights than women at 45% of men and 44% of women, according to the ABA. 

Most survey takers thought the general public isn’t well informed on how the government works at 53%, the ABA continued, and 17% said the general public wasn’t at all informed. The ABA also noted 59% of respondents knew Chief Justice John Roberts was chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court but around 19% thought it was Justice Clarence Thomas. 

For specific legal questions, around 21% of survey takers incorrectly thought only U.S. citizens needed to pay federal income tax, the ABA said, and 18% incorrectly thought only citizens needed to obey the law. 

The ABA also noted 19% of respondents thought freedom of speech is only for U.S. citizens. According to the announcement, a large majority (87%) knew that the first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights but 44% incorrectly thought “We the people” are the first words of the Declaration of Independence. 

The complete 2023 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy, can be found online.

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