Nearly Half of All Americans Unable to Name First Amendment Rights

August 6, 2018 Updated: August 6, 2018

A new survey conducted by the Freedom Forum Institute (pdf), a partner of Newseum, reveals a surprising number of Americans are unfamiliar with the First Amendment rights.

Out of the 1,009 respondents interviewed by phone between May and June, only one single person could name all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. More astounding was that 40 percent of all respondents could not correctly identify any, according to the annually conducted survey which first began in 1997.

For those respondents who could identify some rights, the most commonly recalled was the freedom of speech, with 56 percent being able to remember it. The second most recalled was much lower with only 15 percent naming freedom of religion.

Next was the freedom of the press (13 percent), followed by the right of assembly (12 percent) and the least likely to be recalled, the right to petition the government (2 percent).

Some also gave incorrect answers such as the right to bear arms, which is the Second Amendment, and the right to vote.

The age of respondents also played a part in which rights they could recall. The younger demographic, those aged 18 to 34, were more likely than older respondents to recall freedom of religion and the press. In contrast, more educated and higher income respondents were more likely to recall freedom of speech.

Free speech has become a somewhat contested topic after a slew of high-profile incidents in universities last year where invited speakers, often conservative, were shut down by violent protestors. The most recent culmination in this trend occurred in Portland, Oregon, where clashes between the right-wing conservative-libertarian Patriot Prayer group and far-left Antifa counter-protesters often take place.

President Donald Trump spoke of the values of free speech at a White House event on June 27.

“Each of you represents the future of this nation,” he told the group of about 100 student leaders, NASA interns, and others. “You aren’t afraid to speak the truth, and the truth as you know it, and to stand up for what you know is right, even if it means being politically incorrect on occasion.”

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