by Aaron Earls
One-in-five Americans thinks the First Amendment goes too far, but most can’t name the freedoms it protects.
A recent survey sponsored by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center finds Americans confused about the rights listed under the first item in the Bill of Rights.
While 57 percent did correctly mention freedom of speech, a third (33 percent) couldn’t name any First Amendment rights. Only 19 percent mentioned the freedom of religion, 10 percent the freedom of the press and right to assemble, and 2 percent the right to petition.
If you need a refresher, here’s the text of First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The inability to name the freedom of religion comes as no surprise to the 54 percent of Americans—and 70 percent of Protestant pastors—who believe religious liberty is on the decline in the U.S., according to a Lifeway Research study.
When asked if the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees, 19 percent agree. The older the person, the more likely they are to believe it grants too much freedom.
In the wide-ranging Newseum survey, respondents were asked about a host of issues broadly related to the First Amendment. Here are some of the highlights:
- The majority of Americans (54 percent) believe the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage will have no impact on religious freedom. Less than a third (31 percent) feel as though the decision would be harmful to religious freedom, while 8 percent say it will be good for religious freedom.
- Only 24 percent think the news media try to report without bias—a 17-point drop from last year and a 22-point drop from 2013. This is the lowest since the question was first asked in 2004.
- Over half (51 percent) agree the United States Constitution establishes a Christian nation. This figure has remained relatively consistent since it was first asked in the 2007 poll.
- More than 1 in 3 Americans (38 percent) agree that business owners should be required to provide service to same-sex couples. That marks a 14-point drop from the 52 percent who agreed in 2013.
- Most Americans (60 percent) believe that students should be allowed to express their opinions about teachers and school administrators on social media without worrying about being punished for what they say by the school.
- Slightly more than half (54 percent) oppose the idea of allowing the government to secretly spy on individual online messages and phone calls as a means to catch terrorists.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.