Survey: 4-in-10 Americans unable to list “a single First Amendment freedom”

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center conducted its annual State of the First Amendment survey for 2016, and found that nearly half of all respondents were unable to name a single right protected by the First Amendment.

“39 percent of Americans could not name a single First Amendment freedom: religion, speech, press, assembly or petition,” according to a summary of the survey’s findings.

The Bill of Rights, which encompasses the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was adopted on December 15, 1791 and has endured since. However, based on the State of First Amendment survey, people don’t know that:

“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 results were based on the responses of 1,006 people from a national sample of 48 states. “The sample was stratified to ensure that broad geographic regions were represented in proportion to their share of the total adult population,” the report indicated.

Other findings from the survey indicated that 86 percent of respondents favored “protecting speech,” and only 10 percent supported limits geared at “protecting people from hearing things that offend them.” Additionally, 57 percent showed very strong support for free expression on college campuses, and 35 percent supported the right for high school students.

Following the Orlando attacks, the surveyors conducted a follow-up survey, which showed a great deal of support for the First Amendment protection for all religious faiths, “regardless of how extreme or fringe the survey respondents might consider the beliefs of those faiths, actually increased, despite anti-Muslim rhetoric and reports of an ISIS connection that followed the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.”


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