State of the First Amendment

2016 Surveys Find Support for Religious Liberty and Free Speech, Need for More Education About Our Core Freedoms

The 2016 State of the First Amendment

Infographic: 2016 State of the First Amendment Survey findings (download PDF)

The State of the First Amendment survey, conducted by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, tests Americans’ knowledge of their core freedoms and samples their opinions on First Amendment issues of the day.

The results of this year’s survey show most Americans favor free speech, even over speech that offends, and support religious liberty, even in the face of terrorism. However, 39 percent of Americans could not name a single First Amendment freedom: religion, speech, press, assembly or petition.

The annual survey, which began in 1997 and this year was conducted in late May, showed that 86 percent of those responding in the national survey favored “protecting speech,” while just 10 percent favored limits aimed at “protecting people from hearing things that offend them.”

There also was strong support for free expression on college campuses: 57 percent said college students should be able to speak freely. The results dropped to 35 percent for students in high school.

Also, a follow-up survey done after the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando showed support for 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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