This week we celebrated Constitution Day, by among other things, watching Congress authorize funding for a war that is not a war, and allowing it to be waged on the basis of a 2001 use-of-force resolution that authorized military actions against parties involved with the 9/11 attacks (conveniently, it did not have an expiration date).
Every year, it seems, there are poll results released on Constitution Day that suggest that the majority may not even know that a constitution exists (or if it does, what it might say). A survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that:
While little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one.
With respect to the Congress—which, we are told repeatedly, is held in remarkably low esteem by the public:
Asked which party has the most members in the House of Representatives, 38 percent said they knew the Republicans are the majority, but 17 percent responded the Democrats, and 44 percent reported that they did not know (up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).
Asked which party controls the Senate, 38 percent correctly said the Democrats, 20 percent said the Republicans, and 42 percent said they did not know (also up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).
Given that just over one-third know who is in control of Congress, it is difficult to interpret another poll this week (CBS/NYT) that tells us that 70 percent disapprove of Republicans in Congress and 61 percent disapprove of Democrats in Congress.
All of this is a bit frustrating given the importance attributed to public opinion by the political class. Even if public opinion is poorly informed, it may still have a major impact.
Returning to the war that is not a war, the CBS/NYT poll also found that 57 percent of the population believes that President Obama is not tough enough on ISIS, and only 41 percent approves of his handling of terrorism.
Vox populi, Vox dei*
*Or to quote Alcuin of York in his entirety: “Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.”