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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Data: Annenberg Public Policy Center; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

New data finds that Americans have a much better understanding of the three branches of government than ever before, likely due to the massive increase of politics in our media diets.

Why it matters: “This knowledge appears to have been purchased at a real cost," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. "It was a contentious year in which the branches of government were stress-tested.”

Details: An annual civics study conducted by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that a more polarized society knows more about the basics of American government, and much more about the First Amendment.

  • In 2021, 56% of Americans were able to name all three branches of government, up from 51% in 2020 and 33% in 2006.
  • About one-third of respondents say they know how long the term of office for members of Congress, both in the House and Senate.

Between the lines: Broadly speaking, Americans are much more aware of the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, and particularly free speech.

  • More than half of respondents can name at least three of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. In 2016, most Americans could only name one.
  • In total, nearly three-fourths (74%) of all Americans were able to name freedom of speech as a right, followed by freedom of religion (56%) and freedom of the press (50%).

Yes, but: A greater understanding of issues like freedom of speech is likely the result of an increasingly polarized debate in society over censorship and media bias, which has muddled some of the facts around the issue.

  • To that end, more than half of Americans (61%) said incorrectly that the First Amendment requires Facebook to let all Americans express themselves freely on its platform.
  • Similarly, nearly half of Americans (49%) believe it's accurate that arresting the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters violates their constitutional rights.

Bottom line: “It is a sad commentary on the public’s civic literacy that half of the public considers an effort to disrupt the certification of an election an exercise of a First Amendment right,” Jamieson said.

Go deeper

Axios-Ipsos poll: 60% of voters back Biden vaccine mandates

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Note: Margin of error +/-3.2%; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

A majority of Americans — including suburban voters — support vaccine mandates for federal workers as well as private companies, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: The findings, on the heels of President Biden's mandates announcement last week, suggest that while his move was divisive, it may be politically safer than his opponents hope.

Mike Allen, author of AM
15 mins ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.

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