A recently released survey showcases a bit of data that should surprise nobody: Americans know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment.

The study, conducted by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, focuses on the First Amendment and found that less than 1 percent of the respondents could identify the five protected rights – freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly and to petition the government.

On the other hand, about 20 percent of respondents could name Bart and Homer and all the other three members of the animated Simpson family.

"There was a depth of ... confusion that we weren’t expecting," says Dave Anderson, executive director of the museum. "I think people take their freedoms for granted. Bottom line."

Columbia University law professor Michael Dorf says the results weren’t shocking. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t any drawbacks to widespread ignorance, Dorf says. If people ignore their rights, those rights might disappear, he says.

"The Constitution is just a piece of paper," he says. "What makes it work is a public commitment to living under it. And that requires some minimal understanding of what it entails."

"It’s obvious what should happen here," Dorf says. The Constitution "should be featured in an episode of ‘The Simpsons.’"

© 2006, Chicago Tribune.

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