"Constitution IQ" Highest in California, Arkansas Most Improved According to Annual Constitution Day Poll

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221 years after the signing of the Constitution, Californians know a lot about their Constitutional rights, according to a recent poll.

All men are created equal

With the 221st anniversary of the signing of the Constitution approaching on September 17th, Californians know a lot about the landmark document, according to a recent poll of 54,377 Americans by constitutionfacts.com.

While Americans in the South Atlantic region (DC, DE, GA, FL, MD, NC, VA and WV) scored higher than other regions, California led the country with the highest score on the annual constitutionfacts.com constitution day poll -- averaging 8.406 -- more than a full point above the national average and displacing West Virginia from the number-one ranking last year. The state showing the most improvement over 2007 was Arkansas climbing from a 6.826 average score to 7.629, surpassing the national average of 7.305 on a 10 point rating scale.

"Besides Math, English and other academic areas ... probably the most important subject any of us should know is our country's Constitution and our Constitutional rights, and it looks like Californians are scoring well in this area," according to Keir Walton, publisher of the annual Constitution Day poll at constitutionfacts.com, a website dedicated to helping people understand the Constitution.

According to the poll, more than 81 percent of Americans knew that laws were made by Congress, 84 percent that criminals have the right to hear witnesses against them, and 79 percent that they have the right to invoke the 5th amendment to avoid self-incrimination.

The Constitution is considered remarkable because it has stood the test of time. It was written for a country with four million people. Now the U.S. is home to more than 300 million people, and there have only been 27 amendments to the Constitution -- including the Bill of Rights -- in 221 years

While Constitution IQ scores are surprisingly strong, an expanded poll of 32,983 Americans by constitutionfacts.com highlighted confusion between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Only 37 percent of Americans knew that the Constitution took effect in 1788, instead confusing it with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which occurred 12 years earlier in 1776.

Walton said that even educators are guilty of the mix-up. One time, he said, an elementary school teacher produced a play in which John Hancock signed the Constitution -- even though Hancock signed the Declaration, not the Constitution. Also, a high school superintendent, during a graduation ceremony, said that the words "All men are created equal" appear in the Constitution. Actually, they appear in the Declaration of Independence.

Walton says he hopes that by providing a handy and accessible website containing copies of the country's three main historical documents -- the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation -- myths and misinformation about these documents can be eradicated.

To find out your Constitution IQ, and see how you compare with others statewide and nationally, take the online poll at http://www.constitutionfacts.com.

The online, non-scientific poll of 54,377 Americans was conducted by constitutionfacts.com from August 1, 2007 - July 31, 2008. Participants were evenly split between women (49.4%) and men (50.6%) with an average age of 30 years old. Regionally, South Atlantic had the highest average score of 7.55, followed closely by the New England region, averaging 7.49. Alarmingly, four of the U.S. regions -- East North Central, East South Central, Mountain and West South Central dropped below the national average of 7.305 this year, up from two regions last year. Alaska had the highest percentage of perfect scores followed by DC, Mississippi, Hawaii, South Dakota, North Dakota, Illinois and Missouri. For more information on the poll, visit http://www.constitutionfacts.com

Keir Walton

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