Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Familiarity and Knowledge of the U.S. Constitution: A Survey of Guam's Residents

Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Familiarity and Knowledge of the U.S. Constitution: A Survey of Guam's Residents

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

United States Constitution Day was birthed from the idea of establishing a day to recognize and celebrate American citizenship, and has evolved into a remembrance of the day that the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution, September 17, 1787. Many Americans use this day to reflect on the rights granted to U.S. Citizens, the freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution, and the visionary steps the delegates took throughout the summer of 1787 to secure lasting, founding principles for their fledgling new nation. Over 200 years later, the Congress of that same nation, now transformed dramatically by modern times, passed legislation concerning this date, stating '[e]ach educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution" (Civic Impulse, 2015).

The University of Guam is one such institution, and during the Fall 2014 semester, graduate students from Dr. John Rivera's "Administrative Thought" class at the university were challenged to recognize U.S. Constitution Day in a creative, participatory way. Students would take part in conducting a short, non-invasive survey assessing Guam residents' familiarity with and knowledge of the United States Constitution. Results would be pitted against results given from a similar, nationwide survey found online, and presented in a functional, fashionable infographic.

The annual survey is posted online at http://www.constitutionfacts.com and, while available to any web-user, offers to record and summate data only from residents of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (DC). The students found that this data set leaves out residents of the U.S. territories, including Guam, thus leaving out what could be some very interesting and revealing findings from a unique section of U.S. citizens. The students wanted to know, how would Guam residents fare? Which age group would score the highest? Which questions would most Guam residents answer incorrectly? The students further thought that both the authors and the users of the online survey might find our conclusions enlightening, perhaps provoking them to re-examine including a more complete, holistic set of the population in subsequent annual surveys. The students at least wanted to give Guam residents a chance for their voice to be heard in civic engagement, comparing and contrasting to the voices of others within the United States, and, in a way, extend "fair and equal representation" to Guamanians.

METHODOLOGY

To extend the survey to Guam residents, the students determined they would poll, to the greatest possible degree, a wide variety of the population (excluding minors). Their aim was 260 survey respondents; in all they polled 240. These respondents were co-workers, customers, friends, relatives, and other students; military service members, retirees, and civilians; selfemployed, Federal employees, local government employees, and private sector employees; of a variety of education levels and a host of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Questions covered civic topics such as: The Articles of Confederation, the role of Congress, the term length of presidents, rights of the accused, the country's first vice-president, the Bill of Rights, the Secretary of State, and electoral votes.

Furthermore, the class discussed several questions they'd add to augment the data to pit against the online survey. They found it prudent to ask respondents' age group (18-35, 36-50, or 51 and over), respondents' professional status (local government employee, Federal government employee, private sector employee, self-employed, student, or other), and highest level of education completed (elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or graduate and higher). Moreover, they thought it would be interesting and revealing to know respondents' own self-assessment of how much they felt they knew about the U. …

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