Depressing Survey Results On Americans’ First Amendment Grasp


We all know that the dumbing down of America is taking its toll on the basic civics knowledge in the United States, but the 2015 State of the First Amendment report surveyed by Newseum Institute has uncovered a really scary trend.  Americans don’t know what basic rights are outlined in the First Amendment.

Those surveyed were asked to name the five freedoms outlined in the First Amendment:

  • 57% can name freedom of speech
  • 19% name freedom of religion,
  • 10% freedom of the press,
  • 10% mention the right to assemble,
  • 2% name the right to petition,
  • 33% of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Those naming freedom of speech decreased from 68 to 57% in the last year, freedom of religion decreased from 29 to 19%, and freedom of the press declined from 14 to 10%.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that is a scary statistic.  Believe it or not, it gets worse.

When asked if the First Amendment guaranteed TOO MUCH freedom, in 2015 19% of Americans say it goes to far, which did drop from 38% last year.  However only 75% of Americans surveyed said it did not.

In the history and freedom of religion areas, the toll of the constant culture war becomes obvious.  Just over half of those surveyed believe that the United States was established as a Christian nation.  (Guess they missed all the different Christian groups organizing their own colonies in history class.)  Over half of those surveyed believe that a Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage would have no impact on the freedom of religion.  Young people and Democrats are more likely to support requiring businesses to serve same sex couples.  Seriously.  As if the freedom to choose who to do business with doesn’t exist.

Young people also think that cartoons depicting Muhammad are covered by the first amendment, as well as supporting the notion that students should be allowed to freely express themselves.  Most Americans believe that the government should allow citizen groups to have Confederate Flags on their license plates.

There is widespread support for the use of body cameras by police.   Just over half of those surveyed say that the government has no business collecting telephone call metadata, although Republicans are more supportive of the notion.  Americans are more supportive of allowing presidential candidates to spend their own money to run for public office than to raise unlimited amounts from corporations and unions as is allowed by law.

One bright spot in the survey, only 24% of those surveyed think that the news media strives to report unbiased news.  Democrats are more likely to believe that the news media is unbiased than Republicans or libertarians, but there is no mention on which way the remaining 76% think the news media leans.  Unfortunately, fewer people are of the opinion that the news media should act as a government watchdog at all.

All in all, the 2015 State of the First Amendment report uncovers some trends that should not be so surprising.  Democrats and young people lean more toward leftist goals and older people and Republicans lean more toward conservative approaches.

However, a third of the people surveyed not being able to name freedom of speech or of the press, the right to peaceful assembly, religion or the right to petition the government…this is not a good development.

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.