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The constitution is evidently a major deal in American politics. It shows up all the time in the political discourse, often used to defend certain opinions and views, or to highlight the grandeur of America by using the constitution as some sort of symbol of freedom. Here's an overview of how much Americans google the word "constitution" (BLUE), as compared to "poverty" (RED), "climate change" (YELLOW), "child abuse" (GREEN) and "human rights" (PURPLE). Also notice the spikes every 2 years during the elections, highlighting how important the word is for the political discourse. SOURCE: Google source: Google Trends

But why? Why is the constitution so important to Americans?

Most countries have one. My country has one too. It gets mentioned here and there, but, largely, people don't really care. It's considered nothing more than a piece of old legislature crafted by a bunch of old people who, through our present-day lens, were flawed in multiple ways. The perception is that it was nice to have it back then, sure, but now, in 2017, it doesn't carry much weight, nor should it: rather, we should seek to continuously improve as a society. If mistakes were made in the past, they should be corrected rather than set in stone.

Yet in the USA, it seems to be different. Why? What is so special about the American constitution? Why do Americans have such as strong bond with their constitution, even in 2017 (the original version of the constitution came to be in 1789, 233 years ago).

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    IMO, that is linked to American exceptionalism; if the USA is exceptional then there must be some special facts that justify it. Lacking miraculous tales and legends about its foundations, the most accessible options are either divine will (USA are the Puritans escaping prosecution, and everything else is "foreign") or to enshrine the Founding Fathers(like that, in caps) and their acts to semi-mythical status. – SJuan76 Dec 3 '17 at 16:19
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    Re "continuously improve as a society", perhaps it's important to recognize that a lot of Americans really don't see things that go against the Constitution (and particularly the Bill of Rights) as improvements. Thus if you think that for instance freedom of speech (which a good many countries still don't have to the same degree as the US) is important enought to protect, you cite the 1st Amendment. Indeed, a good bit of what in other places would be called only "human rights" is referred to as "constitutional rights" in US discourse. – jamesqf Dec 3 '17 at 19:50
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    I don't see why you'd think the # of google search reflects how much people "care" about something in any way. I care about a lot of things I don't search on Google, go figure, and many other people do that too. – Bregalad Dec 3 '17 at 20:16
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    I think you haven't read the chart correctly. I see spikes every September and troughs in the summer, and odd years generally as large as even years, which implies to me it is dominated by schools. – user9389 Dec 4 '17 at 5:26
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    @PoloHoleSet or, you know, the US just imitated other countries itself. It was by no means the first. – Erik Dec 5 '17 at 10:30
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US citizens tend to get passionate about the constitution, if for no other reason that it's one of the few things most of them agree on.

The first part of the US constitution is boilerplate government operational stuff. It's the amendments, specifically the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights, that the citizens pay the most attention to. They were originally written by James Madison in 1789, to address concerns by the individual states that they would lose too much power to the federal government. If only Madison could know the effect his amendments had...

These lay out the rights any citizen has. Save being convicted of a serious crime, these rights cannot be taken away. Any law passed by congress must adhere to these rights, or it is struck down. Most notably...

Any citizen cannot be prevented from, or prosecuted for, speaking their mind. Nor can the government censor the press. The government cannot stop citizens from peaceably assembling, or getting together. Nor can the government stop the citizens from telling it what it is doing wrong. (they can ignore what the citizens are saying... at least until the next election cycle)

It forbids religion from being involved in government, and it forbids the government from either promoting or suppressing a religion. Many democracies do this today, but the US constitution spelled it out in black and white, in 1789, when most governments had a chosen religion, and many suppressed other religions.

A citizen cannot be imprisoned without just cause, and without due process of law. Government officials can't just toss someone in jail because they don't like what the person is saying. Try that one in N Korea.

A citizen has a right to a trial by a jury of their peers. While trials can be conducted only by a judge who will pronounce judgment, a citizen has a right to demand a trial by twelve other citizens, chosen at random.

The government cannot take property from a citizen, or even requisition it, without just compensation.

There are others, but those stand out as having served the citizens of the country very well. And those ten amendments, written in 1789, have remained unchanged, and are still very relevant. (although inflation has passed the twenty dollar figure in amendment 7)

The Bill of Rights is a reminder that we occasionally get something right.

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    +1 for the point that most people care only about the Bill of Rights. I would go further and say that probably 90% of the time "Constitution" is used as a metonym for either the 1st or the 2nd amendment. – Peter Taylor Dec 4 '17 at 8:41
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    This explains what the constitution is, it does not contrast constitutions and attitudes between nationalities and thus does not answer the question. – inappropriateCode Dec 4 '17 at 13:37
  • I like your answer, I wish it would include that it is negative powers of the Government that makes it unique at the time the admendments were written. I mean negative as in the "government cannot...", and "shall not..." instead of "the government can and will..." – Frank Cedeno Dec 4 '17 at 15:35
  • Do you have examples of democracies promoting/suppressing a religion? – Erik Dec 5 '17 at 10:27
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    Your answer contains a [very common] fallacy- the amendments to the constitution do not guarantee those rights to the individual. The rights are assumed to be inherent, and the amendments serve to restrict the government from passing any law which would infringe upon those rights. – Derek_6424246 Dec 5 '17 at 17:22
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Your measure of the american interest for the constitution is flawed.

I did the same research as you did in french, in France, which is an interesting example because :

  • there is no "Bill of rights" in the french constitution.
  • Instead, there is the "Declaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen" of 1789, which is approximately the same as the Bill of Rights, and is quoted by the constitution.

It gives approximately the same result as yours (I had to remove time before 2006,because in 2005 there was the referendum on the European constitution), that is :

  • "constitution" comes before the "declaration des droits de l'homme" and every other research term you used.

  • There is a spike roughly each october.

But France is not known to be particularly proud of its constitution, and it is even somehow a controversial topic (every now and then, mainstream candidates in the presidential election propose to write a new one). Still, there were no particular spikes at the 2007 and 2017 elections, when it happened recently. "Constitution" also beats "Cinquième République" and "Sixième République". Those are the terms mostly used in the debate for changing the constitution (more than "constitution" itself).

Then I tried in German. Note that in German, stricto sensu the word for Constitution is "Verfassung", but German people seem to use instead "Grundgesetz" which means "fundamental law". So "Verfassung" is used as a common noun for any constitution while "Grundgesetz" is used as a proper noun and refers to the german constitution as it is now. At the end, we get that "Verfassung" und "Armut" are quite close, but "Grundgesetz" comes first (and there are still those spikes).

As I had translated to German, it seemed easy to try in Austria. But as noted in the comments, "Bundesverfassung" (which means "federal constitution") is used as "Grundgesetz" in Germany, that is to refer to the particular constitution of Austria.

Then "Bundesverfassung" comes first, before "Armut" and "Verfassung". There are no regular spikes in fall, but that's it for the differences. And probably some debates about the constitution have modified the research result.

For trends in German, if you want to check, I used the words "Armut", "Verfassung", "Bundesverfassung", "Grundgesetz", "Umweltschutz" and the 01/01/2009 - today (5th december 2017) window.

Then I did other experiments in french in Senegal, in Belgium and in Morocco. French is the only official language of Senegal, but not of Belgium. In Morocco it is a widely used language, used at universities and in some schools. "Constitution" definitely comes first, even if you remove a spike in Morocco in 2011.

Presumably a lot of google requests for the constitution are from lawyers, or law students, or assistants of the members of parliament.

Because the constitution is old does not make it outdated

Presumably the Constitution has authority in the US precisely because it is old :

  • it makes it a piece of history
  • it was written by people widely seen as heroes because of their fight for the independance.
  • Respecting their constitution, the US have gone from a small country to the first place in the world.
  • I would assume lawyers who's work might touch the constitution would be more likely to use a bookmark, a downloaded reference, or a framed hardcopy then need to search google. – user9389 Dec 4 '17 at 16:40
  • @notstoreboughtdirt: I think in the US the work of every lawyer may touch the constitution due to diffuse constitutional review (I may be mistaken). But I am not sure about what you said: in scientific research, most people use wikipedia to get a first idea on a topic, which helps when you search in books. – Distic Dec 4 '17 at 17:00
  • I think it's a levels of abstraction thing. Most lawyers deal with legislated law and precedent. Appeals (which might involve constitutional issues) are a specialty. Searching is a big part of legal research, and I may be wrong about how much share google has in it, but the couple of lawyers I know well enough to say use tools that I doubt are counted in trends. – user9389 Dec 4 '17 at 17:33
  • @notstoreboughtdirt: It may also be law students that have not bought a book yet (and so the spike in september/october). – Distic Dec 4 '17 at 18:01
  • The authors of the US constitution aren't revered for fighting a revolution. They are revered for setting up a country that would address the very reasons they had the revolution (unlike many other revolutions that just changed the powers that be), and authoring a document that has become a blueprint for human rights and equality. – tj1000 Dec 4 '17 at 21:41
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The US has a particularly adversarial and litigious culture.

We take everything to at least the legal limit. And then grouse that the legal limit is wrong. The constitution is the legal limit of legal limits, so is pretty much always the center of such agitating and counter agitating.

Our constitution is perhaps less clear than some would like.

There are books written about nearly every line, and they don't all come to the same conclusions. The 2nd amendment is the poster child for uncertainty, where a not clearly wrong reading could be that only the national guard is allowed to be armed, or that felons can't be stopped from bringing nuclear bombs with them to jail. Currently we are in a middle ground, but all side continually insist theirs is the correct interpretation.

Our constitution mostly works.

It was made to limit government, and with some notable (I'm looking at you commerce clause) exceptions it does. But as my favorite Franklin quote mentions it only works if we do. So we have kept it at the forefront of debates to see that it continues to work.

It is the only meaningful weapon that we have.

The US government is one of the most powerful forces that has ever existed. It kicks in doors all over the world, reads your mail, "enhanced interrogation"'s its enemies, and wages economic war on entities from individuals to nations. No external power exists strong enough to certainly stop it. But I can make a stand on some issues with confidence that the constitution will protect me.

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The Constitution is important to Americans because it is supposed to be the final arbiter of the most important disputes. In theory, we can argue about many of the less important aspects of running the country, but critical questions about rights and who has final say in decision making are supposed to come from the Constitution. In theory, having the Constitution on your side should be the trump card (no pun intended).

An important aspect of that power of the Constitution is that the Constitution guarantees important rights that Americans cherish (and that you are likely quite aware of such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to a jury trial, etc.),

And so the Constitution protects us from tyranny both by protecting rights and by preventing a slide in to dictatorship, at least in theory.

To what extent the theory holds up in practice is widely debated but even in that debate each side will claim that the Constitution is on their side.

As for what sets the American constitution apart, there are several points. First, America's constitution is generally less ambitious than most others. Rather than getting into the weeds of how policies should be implemented, it lays out core rights that nearly everyone can agree on (e.g. we may argue what "freedom of speech" means but we all agree we should have freedom of speech). Second, there is the history. This link talks in part about the length of the American constitution compared to the EU constitution.

https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/comparing-us-eu-constitutions

This site provides a listing of constitutions that can be sorted by rank. America has one of the shortest (though there are a few democracies with shorter ones - notably Japan).

America's constitution was created by founding fathers who are widely respected. Also, it was created at a time when it was revolutionary. This distinguishes from, say Japan, whose constitution was created more recently by people who were far less respected.

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    This does not contrast constitutions and attitudes between nationalities and thus does not answer the question. You claim America's constitution is less ambiguous than others but fail to prove this or cite anything relevant. Most of what you said is universally applicable. – inappropriateCode Dec 4 '17 at 13:36
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The Constitution of the United States is currently the oldest constitution in force in the world to be adopted by popular representation (There are older constitutions, but they are no longer used). For Americans at the time of the adoption, it was a radical departure from the parliamentary system in England, if by means of what is the final authority on the law. One critical difference between the two systems is that in English the final authoritative law is that which is enacted by Parliament, thus if parliament has had enough of this "Free Speech Nonsense" they can enact laws that change the nature of the freedom. Contrasted with the United States, which puts limits on even the most powerful offices of the government (the original framers believed the Legislature would be more powerful than the Executive, though history suggests the reverse happened).

Americans are typically distrustful of their government as a whole, and the people who wrote the Constitution definitely numbered in this crowd (many being the folks who rebelled against British rule). They recalled the abuses of power their government enact on the people when they were under British rule and took steps to limit themselves from taking those aggression when they were in power. The amendments in the bill of rights are classed into three categories (The Liberty Amendments (1,2,3), The Justice Amendments (4,5,6,7,8), and the unenumerated rights Amendments(9, 10)). A quick read of the Liberty Amendments are checks against abuses of British Power on the American colonies. The right to speak freely was curtailed severely and the press and pulpits were censored for the crime of criticizing the government, the British disarmed the civilian population and then forced them to provide for the very troops enforcing these things. To the people, these were very egregious crimes and the first thing the people wanted was their assurances they hadn't swapped "George the Third for George (Washington) the First".

With the modern nation, the idea that we don't trust our elected officials holds true to this day. That isn't to say that government isn't necessary, but that what authority it is given it isn't trusted. Now, with the ethos of the population in mind, lets look at your data.

Each seems to contain a double spike, with the interest going up, down, up slightly, and down to a low point, lather, rinse, and repeat. These may correspond to certain periods in a typical year where interest is at an all time high. The political season is in full swing in the fall with general elections in November every even numbered year. This means that the most discussion of the policy and law are likely to occur in this time frame and immediately after as people check to make sure everything lines up (2016 for example were awash in Constitutional Crisis scenarios, the validity of which is not necessary for this discussion). Then there's a short drop as this abuts a busy Holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years) and then a descent to a mid season low with a short bump in the summer period. This bump can be attributed to the Supreme Court, which is concluding their term and publishing all the decision they have made (and they typically do this over multiple days in June and July and usually save the controversial ones that everyone really wants to hear for last). Following that, August, the low point, is typically a slow point in political news in general. Congress is in a long vacation/recess period, the Supreme Court is deciding what to hear for the next term, and the Exective is just running the country. Also, most Americans are on vacation during this time. Then we start the process all over again. Even in non-election years, the budget and other major legislation is done around this time, as Congress does not like to push major legislation in an Election year, so the Fall period is the last point to do something that they hope the voters won't remember in the following year.

It would be interesting to see those numbers side by side with things like celebrities and pop culture, as I think you'll see even higher numbers. The other issue with your comparison is that these issues are quite specific, where as the Constitution is very general. And while it's interesting to see the level of searches that contain queries for both the topic and the constitution, most of these issues would be handled at the state level, not the federal one. As a final interpretation of the data, you'll notice that the 2004 summer slump was unusually high compared to other slump periods where it seemed to be googled consistently throughout the summer. An additional reason for this could be that the popular movie "National Treasure", which includes conspiracies related to many of America's founding documents, debuted later in this year, with the trailers appearing sometime around the summer movie season.

The data (EDIT: Provided by the OP) also doesn't support that (EDIT: the OP's assertion that) American's love the constitution more than other countries because we do not have a similar line for rate at which another country's constitution is googled by their citizens (What's the trend of Canadians googling the Canadian Constitution?). Not saying that Americans do not love the Constitution of the United States, cause we do... but how does it stack with googles for other constitutions?

As a final note, in many parts of the world, following WWII, demonstrations of reverence towards national symbols such as flags and the like have been somewhat taboo and creepy to Europeans. This did not translate to United States, where we went from WWII to the Cold War, where civic pride for the rights our government recognizes was our answer to the Soviet Union's human rights abuses. Historically, the First Amendment has been put under the scrutiny during the later half of the 20th century more than any other amendment, which has lead to an increase in respect for the Constitution's rights over all. The right to say anything (even very offensive slurs) and the right to own firearms are still very unique among the constitutions of the world. The period language used may also have some affection, as the more modern constitutions are written in a more modern voice and thus read like any other law (that is to say, boring and overly narrowed). Compare to the U.S. Constitutional Language, which is much more poetic and evokes the era of the period it was written. The language drift also leads to interesting discussions on what each rule means, as U.S. Jurisprudence is set by the intended meaning of the writer of a particular article or amendment. All of these combine to make the Constitution of the United States a rather interesting read in and of itself, and opens it to some unique discussions with regard to it.

EDIT: To address one final point, the OP also makes mention of the Constitution as if it was inflexible. The constitution does have an amendment process (Article Five) which sets the procedures to amend the Constitution. It is possible to add or repeal the constitution to meet the needs of the changing world (There was debate in the early days if the Vice President became President when assuming the office or was still the Vice President until the next election, but now did President stuff. This was changed. Similarly the 3/5ths compromise is no longer in effect and the State Appointment of senators was amended to direct electoral appointment). This process can even be used to repeal and replace the Constitution writ large (The only part that cannot be changed is that the states may not be deigned equal senatorial representation). The fact that it is a very difficult process requiring 2/3rds of both Houses of Congress and 3/4ths of all States means that it actually has some legitimacy to the document that which remains is accepted as vital to the nation, and that which was changed was accepted as being rigorously vetted and accepted by the majority of the people via representation. Since it's ratification, there have been 11,539 instances of proposed amendments to the constitution of which, only 17 changes meeting the full requirements to full amendment status (0.15% success rate).

  • You correctly say in the second last paragraph that you don't really answer the question. – Communisty Dec 5 '17 at 8:32
  • @Communisty: Not really, I only say that the data provided doesn't support the assumption that Americans love their Constitution than any other country loves it's own Constitution. All it states is that Americans search for it more than those other things it is compared to. It could be that the OP made a correct assumption... it could be that another country exists that loves it's constitution more... but that cannot be difinitively stated. The applied historical and data interpretation that can assist in seeing why those trends may exist in the ways that they do. – hszmv Dec 5 '17 at 14:13
  • @Communisty - stating that the premise is flawed is not the same as saying "I'm not addressing the question." – PoloHoleSet Dec 5 '17 at 14:40
  • Yeah I agree that the premise is flawed. I'm just saying regardless of it that you didn't compare the situation to other countries (which as I understood the question was quite integral part of the it). – Communisty Dec 5 '17 at 15:04
  • @Communisty: The OP did not ask for that. OP asked why the 233 year old constitution is preferred to a more modern constitution. Assuming that it was the point, I also made notes of the distinctions of the document when compared to the world writ large, without making any specific comparisons to one specific country. – hszmv Dec 5 '17 at 15:16
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Before I answer, I just want to point out, America isn't one thing. It's a lot of different ideas and individual opinions / often shouting against each other. "Why is this liked in America", it's more accurate to say that there's a movement where part of the US population is making noise about something, not necessarily the entire nation, but a movement. That may be obvious, but I thought I'd point it out.

And I worry that this is an opinion question not a factual one, but I think there's enough agreement behind it to make a good answer.

There's several reasons. I'll touch on a few, and I'm sure I'll miss a few.

1) Unlike many European Nations that have history that goes back millennia, America had a clear beginning, a "birth" if you will and that came from the essentially two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (historians might add Thomas Paine's common sense, which at the time had a huge influence on reaching the public, but it's not retained the sense of importance that the other two documents have). I'll add that the Declaration of Independence, while very important at the time, was a statement, where was the constitution was a design for America. It was the only document that was meant to be used as a design for our government going forward.

2) Going back to the Birth of America, America has founding fathers that are revered even today. Even though Jefferson hasn't looked quite as good in the eyes of history with his sleeping with his slaves, Hamilton, Washington, Ben Franklyn, others, are America's founders and the Constitution is largely their work, though Jefferson wrote it, Washington upheld it was the first president and others had a hand in what it should say. SO 1 and 2 go hand in hand, respected people at the birth of a nation and a document that defends that.

3) It has beautiful language that even opposing parties can agree with.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

That's practically poetry. The words are easy to like. It's also very high ideals. Everyone wants justice, tranquility, general welfare (I could say a few things about that one). Blessings of Liberty - even though that actually doesn't mean anything specific, it points to a high ideal for a nation.

4) The constitution is a sword. It's a weapon that people can use to defend their rights, even against the US government, and that's true for both sides of the political scale. That defense is even for stuff that not everyone agrees with.

The Social Justice Warrior who wants to defend a protestors rights to burn a flag, can take that right all the way to the supreme court and win, because the constitution defends individual rights, free speech and free expression . . . sometimes to a fault.

The Pornographer is also free to take his case to the supreme court. The constitution defends his right to produce and sell smut, and, I'm not just talking about Larry Flint, but there's a form of political pornography too - Steve Bannon, Alex Jones and Donald Trump sell things that sound good, that have no basis in truth. The liar, the spin doctor, the rabble rouser and the smut peddler can all use the constitution as a rallying cry.

And the small government (and/or anti-government) libertarian can use the constitution to defend his rights and interest. While it didn't hold up in the supreme court, people have argued that the income tax is unconstitutional because it's not specifically mentioned (legally that's a questionable argument), but there is a feeling that the constitution defends the libertarian against an overreaching government (sorry - that's too general). There's also the 2nd amendment that many people feel protects their rights to buy and own guns (it's more complicated than that, but that's another aspect that gun rights advocates love about the constitution).

and finally 5) - covered above, but he Constitution is represents ideas that even people who don't like government can like. "Promote domestic tranquility / general welfare" - Even people who are generally anti-government still want tranquility and general welfare. Maybe not tax and spend welfare, but everyone I know wants general welfare.

So, we have a document that defends the individual's rights on both sides of the scale, a document written at the birth of the nation, and written in beautiful language promoting the highest ideals by people in history that remain popular. There's lots to like.

What changed in the last 15-30 years?

I'll add to that, more recently, in the last 15-20 years or so, there's been kind of an anti government movement in the US, growing in numbers, but these people use the constitution as a way to express what they stand for. "I don't like congress, I'm a constitutionalist" - if a somewhat general statement on my part, represents very deep feelings among many Americans who LOVE America but don't like our government today.

That's the gist of it, that last paragraph especially is why, if anyone says anything anti-constitutional, they get attacked and booed viciously. I've met many people who want to overthrow the government. I've never met anyone who wants to burn the constitution.

All that said, it's become largely an emotional thing. Many who profess to love the constitution, haven't read it, beyond the first paragraph that was read-allowed in grade-school, and, in addition to not reading it, don't understand it.

I want to add that, while these themes are all generally and historically true, the "feeling" of love for the constitution wasn't always there. In the 60s, many radicals who protested didn't hold the constitution in high esteem, and weren't educated in the history. Even though the constitution defended their rights, there wasn't always a reverence for it like there is today. I remember when I was in school in the US (a long time ago) the constitution was a boring document that we had to study. We liked it, but the 70s when I grew up weren't like today. Today, a few decades later, there's a passionate respect and honor for the constitution. People feel it represents them (generally speaking), at a time when there's not much faith in government.

That's a rough summary anyway. I'm not sure it's a good answer, as opposed to my observation, and I'll try to clean it up a bit later and post some examples.

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    I didn't get very far into this before having to downvote. The statement that some people argue the income tax is unconstitutional because it isn't specifically mentioned is just plain wrong. The 16th amendment specifically gives Congress the ability to levy income taxes. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… The right to produce and distribute pornography and burn flags are listed by this answer as protected, yet those are not rights specifically mentioned in the Constitution. – Readin Dec 3 '17 at 22:53
  • @Readin I said it was wrong in my post, so we agree, but that's not really the point. People who don't think income tax is constitutional still like the constitution on average. Whether they are wrong has nothing to do with what they like - which is what this question asked. That said, it's probably my weakest example and I might delete it all the same. I tend to be wordy and rambling sometimes too, so my bad there as well. – userLTK Dec 3 '17 at 23:10
  • You said the income tax item was "legally questionable". It isn't; the language of the 16th amendment is clear. I have read your whole answer now and there is way to much opinion and too much taking sides on various issues in the answer. Your first four points are excellent but would be better without the comment about Jefferson, the parenthetical comment about general welfare, and the examples on point 4. Examples are fine but choose them more carefully and work harder to avoid your own opinions. I also like the section on attitudes in the 60s and 70s and would love a source to learn more, – Readin Dec 3 '17 at 23:46
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    @Readin I'll review your other points, however and I may delete the income tax argument entirely, or I'll re-word it to be more clear. Even though I think I was clear on that point, I'll take your comments to heart. On the 60s and 70s - I knew teachers who taught during that time, but I only know a story or two, not all that much. – userLTK Dec 3 '17 at 23:59
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    This does not contrast constitutions and attitudes between nationalities and thus does not answer the question. – inappropriateCode Dec 4 '17 at 13:35
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The Constitution is important on several levels:

First of all, it is the basic law of the United States. Congress can't overrule it, and we see it as the foundation of our freedom. Many of the freedoms we enjoy today exist because they are enshrined in the Constitution. Examples include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and so forth.

Secondly, ever since the deeply contentious election of 1800, it has resolved basic questions in a way that is seen as legitimate. Even in 1860, when most Southern whites hated Lincoln and everything he stood for, and even though he only won about 40% of the popular vote, there was no question that he had won the election, because the Constitution said so.

Thirdly, its prohibition of trade barriers among the States made the United States into a free trade area early in its history. This has remained the case right up to the present day. A strong case can be made that this is the foundation of American prosperity. For a contrast, look at all the contention surrounding the EC, Brexit, and so forth.

Fourth, just as many successes of American society can be traced to the Constitution, so can its greatest failure -- the failure of the original Constitution to ensure racial equality.

Fifth, the Constitution deliberately makes it difficult to pass a new Federal law. The President, House and Senate are all chosen in different time intervals, with votes apportioned differently. That makes it harder to get something done. Not only that, if it doesn't pass muster with the courts, it may be overturned. In light of the number of bad things Government can do, a lot of people think that's all a feature, not a bug.

Lastly, the continuity ensured by the Constitution is remarkable. How many other countries have had continual popularly elected government since 1792?

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    It could be argued that none of these things are unique to the US. E.g. #1 is true of many countries with written constitutions. #2 is true of many countries with well-defined and long-observed electoral laws. #5 I don't know; a few; what's your point? So, I don't feel this answers the question. – Steve Melnikoff Dec 3 '17 at 21:18
  • I've added one more point(#5) that sets the US apart from a lot of countries. That said, the question was "Why is the constitution so important to Americans?" So I've explained how it is seen by Americans. This sort of thing is particularly important in a large country, where people from different regions are likely to disagree. Re the final point, it is indisputable that the USA was early and influential in this regard; at the time we made our Constitution, most of the world was under either a monarchy or a colonial government. – William Jockusch Dec 3 '17 at 22:04
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    This does not contrast constitutions and attitudes between nationalities and thus does not answer the question, it just says what the constitution is. – inappropriateCode Dec 4 '17 at 13:32
  • @SteveMelnikoff - the degree to which it's not unique now is says nothing about whether it was back then, and the degree to which it is not unique now would be a testament to how often others have found it impressive enough to feel they should model their own supreme national laws using the US version as a model. – PoloHoleSet Dec 4 '17 at 15:52
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Why is the constitution so important to Americans?

I see two reasons why the American constitution holds a lot more regards:

  1. It's very very hard to change it, as any change requires the consent of both the federal legislature and 3/4 of the states. No constitutional amendments have been passed for many decades and it's unlikely any would be adopted in the coming years. On the other hand most other countries only require the consent of 2/3 of both legislative chambers to adopt a change, so their constitutions are in constant motion. And if it's in constant motion it loses a lot of respect, as the very next elections could see it completely overhauled.

  2. It provides for a lot more freedoms than are available through the constitution in other countries. Let's have a look at the first 10 amendments, a.k.a. the Bill of Rights:

    1. Nearly absolute freedom of speech, religion and peaceful assembly. In countries like Germany the government can punish people for denying the Holocaust, for displaying Nazi symbols, for lying about their education, etc. Not so in the US where there are very few exceptions to freedom of expression.
    2. The right to own guns. Other countries generally restrict the ownership of weapons to very limited applications and require weapon owners to go through difficult licensing schemes to obtain and keep their firearms.
    3. The right to avoid quartering soldiers in your home. This part is a bit outdated, so I'll skip it.
    4. The right for privacy, requiring that all searches are approved by a court of law. This is generally the rule in other democracies as well, but their legislators are free to introduce exceptions to the process in whatever manner they see fit.
    5. The right to a jury trial and protection against double jeopardy and self-incrimination. This means that the US is the only country in the world where the prosecution cannot appeal an acquittal in the lowest court. It is also the only country where jury nullification is truly possible.
    6. The right to a speedy trial. In other democracies an accused person can sit in limbo for years as their case goes through the legal system.
    7. The right to a jury trial in civil cases.
    8. The ban on cruel and unusual punishments. This is generally upheld in other democracies as well, but it used to be a revolutionary concept.
    9. Grants people the power to do anything not otherwise prohibited
    10. Assures that the constituent states retain power over everything not spelled out by the Constitution. Although this amendment has been generally neglected since the 20th century.

A lot of things are wrong with the US government, but at least their Constitution provides a solid foundation for the functioning of the government. In times when Congress has a 5% approval rating the President has a 40% approval rating it's nice to have a single document on which the entire country can more or less agree on.

  • Like most of the other answers, this still comes down to (a) "Americans like the constitution because it contains provisions that they agree with for reasons x, y & z" and (b) "constitutions provide certainty in uncertain times". I'm beginning to wonder if these are, in fact, the best answers to the question that we're going to get. However, (b) is true of many constitutions, and for (a), some of the things that Americans may like about their constitution are not necessarily shared by everyone else. – Steve Melnikoff Dec 5 '17 at 10:31
  • There's an implication in your summaries of the Bill of Rights that all of the things listed are good, but without an explanation as why for some of the more controversial ones. For example, in #1, where the line on free speech should be drawn is highly subjective, and as you note, varies by country. #2 is highly contentious within the US, let alone elsewhere; in countries like the UK and Japan with very tight gun controls, people (on the whole) like it that way. Also, in #5, the Wiki article lists Canada and England & Wales as other places with jury nullification. For #6: sources please. – Steve Melnikoff Dec 5 '17 at 10:40
  • @SteveMelnikoff most other constitutions are much easier to change and they do change a lot. That's another important point. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 5 '17 at 10:41
  • @SteveMelnikoff #1 as you said - in other countries the government is free to draw the line. But in the US there is nothing they can do about anything that doesn't directly harm people (e.g. calls for violence). #5 the Wiki is wrong as Canadian and UK prosecutors can appeal a jury verdict in a higher court. Not so in the US. #6 in the US you are guaranteed a trial within 6 months after being charged and once acquitted you are free to go, period. Here in Europe appeals can take a decade and there's no general right to get a trial within a specific period of time. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 5 '17 at 10:45
  • @SteveMelnikoff regarding #2 - while the right to own guns is indeed controversial, many Americans take comfort in the fact that the Constitution prevents the government from taking away their guns. Not even mass shootings and public hysteria can change this, unless you gather the consent of 3/4ths of the States. That's a rock solid foundation of society, no matter how you see it. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 5 '17 at 10:47

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protected by JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 4 '17 at 17:55

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