Civic knowledge is severely lacking among Americans, though trust in business remains strong, according to a new study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. As such, foundation leaders assert that businesses may have a role to play in filling the civic knowledge and civility gaps.
The foundation’s national survey examined responses from 2,000 registered voters and revealed that Americans lack basic understanding of government.
It found that more than 70% of Americans fail a basic civic literacy quiz on topics like the three branches of government and the number of Supreme Court justices. About half the respondents correctly named the branch of government where bills become laws.
“As we approach our semiquincentennial in 2026, this report amounts to a five-alarm fire drill for the civic health of the nation,” said Hilary Crow, head of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s The Civic Trust®. “While Americans across backgrounds value civic participation in theory, we are sorely lacking in the basic knowledge that translates values into informed, engaged citizenship.”
The foundation noted that just 46% of respondents believed that citizens perform well on understanding the U.S. system of government, though 95% say such understanding is important for the nation's success.
“Put plainly, you can't fix what you don't understand,” said Crow. “Without reversing these deficiencies in understanding how our government works, we are risking the long-term health of our civic culture and democracy itself. That’s why we’re so committed to the National Civics Bee® and other civics literacy programs."
The survey also found that civility is relatively high in the workplace, where there is “an openness to businesses playing a role in supporting citizenship.”
More than 75% of adults in the U.S. view political division in the country and government as a major problem with 19% seeing significant political tensions at their jobs, according to the study. Nearly half of respondents said workplaces should take the primary role in defusing divide, over government bodies.
“As the bonds holding our civic culture together fray, places of work stand out as sanctuaries where Americans still connect across differences,” Crow said. “The data speak clearly — people welcome employers’ help in ensuring politics don't infect these essential spaces. With our social fabric strained, the business community is being called upon to be a thread that can knit us back together.”