Civic Knowledge Increases a Person’s Regard for America’s Ideals and Free Institutions
Gaining civic knowledge—as opposed to merely graduating from college—increases a person’s belief in America’s ideals and free institutions.
The ISI survey shows that large—but not overwhelming—majorities of Americans reject the belief that this nation corrupts otherwise good people, and retain a belief in the relevance of our Founding documents, in the Ten Commandments, and in the effectiveness of the free enterprise system.
- Sixty-three percent of Americans disagree that America corrupts otherwise good people.
- Sixty-one percent of Americans disagree that America’s Founding documents are obsolete.
- Sixty-seven percent of Americans disagree that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant today.
- Fifty-six percent of Americans agree that prosperity depends upon entrepreneurs and free markets.
However, multivariate regression analyses indicate that when numerous factors are held constant, earning a bachelor’s degree has no independent, statistically significant impact on a person’s views on any of these questions. Graduating from college makes someone neither more nor less likely to believe that America corrupts otherwise good people, that the free enterprise system works, and that the Founding documents and Ten Commandments remain relevant.
Gaining civic knowledge, by contrast, does have an independent, statistically significant influence on a person’s views on these issues. If two people otherwise share the same basic characteristics—they have the same level of education, earn the same income, are the same age, etc.—the one with greater civic knowledge will be more likely to support:
- America’s ideals: He or she will be less likely to agree with the proposition that America corrupts otherwise good people.
- America’s Founding documents: He or she will be less likely to agree with the proposition that the Founding documents are obsolete.
- American free enterprise: He or she will be more likely to agree that prosperity depends on entrepreneurs and free markets, and less likely to agree that global capitalism produces few winners and many losers, and that government regulation does more good than harm.
- The Ten Commandments: He or she will be less likely to agree that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant today.
|Top Twenty Opinions Influenced by Civic Knowledge|
|When other factors remain constant, gaining civic knowledge has an independent, statistically significant impact on a respondent’s opinions on twenty of the thirty-nine survey propositions. Listed below are these twenty propositions ranked not by theme, but by the degree to which gaining civic knowledge pushes a person’s opinion toward agreeing or disagreeing with it. The higher the proposition ranks, the more influence gaining civic knowledge exerts on a person’s attitude toward that proposition.|
|Rank and Proposition As You Gain Civic Knowledge You are More Likely to|
|1||Legislators should subsidize a college in proportion to its students learning about America.||Disagree|
|2||America’s Founding documents are obsolete.||Disagree|
|3||The Ten Commandments are irrelevant today.||Disagree|
|4||America corrupts otherwise good people.||Disagree|
|4||Public school teachers should be allowed to lead prayers in school.||Disagree|
|6||Immigration into America should be reduced no matter how well immigrants assimilate.||Disagree|
|7||Homeschooling families neglect their community obligations.||Disagree|
|8||Discrimination is the most urgent problem in America.||Disagree|
|9||Religion and science typically conflict.||Disagree|
|10||The Bible is the Word of God.||Agree|
|10||Prosperity depends upon entrepreneurs and free markets.||Disagree|
|12||American government should do more to solve international problems.||Disagree|
|12||Society is identical to government.||Disagree|
|12||Global capitalism produces a few winners and many losers.||Disagree|
|15||A person’s evaluation of a nation improves with his or her understanding of that nation.||Agree|
|15||America’s media covers rival political views fairly.||Disagree|
|15||Government must act to curb global warming.||Disagree|
|15||Government regulation does more good than harm.||Disagree|
|19||The American Founders opposed universal health care.||Disagree|
|20||The free market brings about full employment.||Disagree|
In what could be considered a troublesome sign for the nation’s civic health, concurrence in the majority view on these matters is weaker among younger Americans than among Baby Boomers.
- Sixty-eight percent of those age forty-five to sixty-four, compared to 58% age eighteen to twenty-four, disagree that America corrupts otherwise good people.
- Sixty-eight percent of those age forty-five to sixty-four, compared to 51% age eighteen to twenty-four, disagree that America’s Founding documents are obsolete.
- Seventy-four percent of those age forty-five to sixty-four, compared to 60% age eighteen to twenty-four, disagree that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant today.
- Fifty-eight percent of those age forty-five to sixty-four, compared to 50% age eighteen to twenty-four, agree that prosperity depends on entrepreneurs and free markets.
The solution to this problem is not simply sending more young Americans to college, for college itself makes little difference in a person’s views on these matters. The solution must be teaching all young Americans more about their nation’s history and institutions, because civic knowledge does make a difference. A good place to address this shortcoming is at the collegiate level, where America’s teachers and professors are trained and where America’s future leaders are groomed.