[L]ess than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government. And only 21 percent know the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which president elect Barack Obama cited in his acceptance speech on Election night. …
30 percent of elected officials do not know that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence; and 20 percent falsely believe that the Electoral College “was established to supervise the first presidential debates”
Almost 40 percent of all respondents falsely believe the president has the power to declare war
40 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree do not know business profit equals revenue minus expenses
Only 54 percent with a bachelor’s degree correctly define free enterprise as a system in which individuals create, exchange and control goods and resources
20.7 percent of Americans falsely believe that the Federal Reserve can increase or decrease government spending
It’s important to note that the questions are multiple choice, which makes them a lot easier to answer. Still, I did have to look up a few.
Some of the questions are more meaningful than others. For example, the phrase about “for the people” logically would fit in a variety of documents. And, today, the president does have the de facto “power to declare war,” even if war is called by some other name in such cases and the Constitution lists no such power. Most of the questions avoid such problems, and it’s a pretty interesting test. You can compare your results with the averages.
Notice that, for most questions, elected officials performed worse than the general populace. Elected officials did a bit better on the question about public goods — I suppose because they tend to use the public-goods argument as a pretext to increase government spending for projects that are not in fact public goods.