Answer: They’re all more popular than the Constitution. Or, at least they were in 1998, according to a study published that year by the National Constitution Center.
NCC is an institution based in Philadelphia established to “disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people” (http://constitutioncenter.org/about). Their goal is very similar to The Freedom Revolution’s, but we focus more on “push” methods of increasing awareness. NCC also hosts non-partisan discussions on the Constitution’s application to current hot topics, whereas we focus on the Constitution and the issues it addressed at the time it was written, as the Founders described them.
One of the great projects NCC hosts is national annual polls. I’d like to highlight one of them from 1998 that illustrates the way pop culture and media are more effective at educating teens than the methods used to educate them about the Constitution. Here are some snippets from the study:
- More American teenagers in 1998 could name three of the Three Stooges than could name the three branches of government (59% to 41%)
- More knew the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air than knew the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (94.7% to 2.2%)
- More knew which city has the zip code “90210” than the city in which the US Constitution was written (75% to 25%)
- More knew the star of the motion picture “Titanic” than knew the Vice President of the United States (90% to 74%).
- More knew who stars as the father of the house in TV’s Home Improvement than knew the father of the US Constitution (89.8% to 1.8%)
View a full summary of the findings here. We know that the study is going on two decades old, but believe that if the study was conducted today, it would have similar findings about The Walking Dead, Justin Bieber, The Voice, and The Dark Knight. And we hypothesize that the unawareness extends beyond teens. As mentioned in an earlier post, we plan to find or conduct similar, current studies and could use your help. These studies will help us produce effective campaigns that reach the public in the same ways as pop culture and media. Our vision is to make discussions about the Constitution just as common as pop culture.
The NCC President at the time of the 1998 NCC study put it this way:
“Ironically, it is the very essence of the Constitution that enables such a vibrant pop culture in this country. We need to do a better job helping our kids to understand that without their Constitution, most of their pop culture icons would not exist and the open and free communication they live with every day wouldn’t flourish.”