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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2007
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Most recognize preamble, local survey finds

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

There’s nothing scientific about The Daily randomly polling folks at a Hartselle ballfield, Athens State University, other public places or online to see how many would recognize the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Still, there were some interesting responses.

The Daily showed a copy of the preamble to 46 adults and asked them to sign that they agreed with it. The copy did not specify it was the preamble but asked if they agreed with the following:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Only one person refused to sign it. She was among three of the 46 who did not know it was the preamble.

“I would have to say partially yes and partially no. But for the sake of the answer you are wanting, I guess it would be a simple no since I can’t say yes to all of it,” the respondent said.

She did not specify with what part she disagreed.

One man at the Limestone County driver license testing office said, “I’ll sign anything once,” but did not know he was agreeing with the preamble.

Why did we take to the streets and go online to do this survey?

This is Constitution Week, and a nationwide study by the National Constitution Center released in 1998 at a U.S. Senate hearing showed disappointing results.

It showed that 74.3 percent of the teens surveyed knew Bart Simpson lives in Springfield but only 25.5 percent knew the U.S. Constitution was written in Philadelphia.

Pop culture often won over basic civics.

The study showed that 59 percent could name the Three Stooges compared to 41 percent being able to name the three branches of government.

The following shows other results of that survey. The questions are listed first, the answer in parenthesis and then the percentage of teens who answered correctly.

  • What are the first three words of the Constitution? (“We the People”) 35.5 percent.

  • What are the first three letters after “http” of almost every Web site address? (www) 71.2 percent.

  • What does the Fifth Amendment protect? (Double Jeopardy/Self-Incrimination/Right to a Grand Jury/Due Process/Compensation for Private Property Taken for Public Use) 25 percent.

  • What does the device “The Club” protect? (Car) 63.7 percent.

  • What are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution known as? (Bill of Rights) 44.8 percent.

  • What comedian/talk show host is known for his nightly “Top Ten List”? (David Letterman) 53 percent.

  • Who is considered the father of the U.S. Constitution? (James Madison) 1.8 percent.

  • Who is considered the father of the computer company Microsoft? (Bill Gates) 58.3 percent.

  • What landmark Supreme Court case found that separate but equal treatment for blacks and whites in public schools was unconstitutional? (Brown v. Board of Education) 9.2 percent

  • What famous football player was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife in 1995? (O.J. Simpson) 87.5 percent.

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