Government & Constitution

Poll: 34 percent of Americans believe that the First Amendment goes too far

Poll: 34 percent of Americans believe that the First Amendment goes too far

According to a survey released by the Newseum Institute on July 16, 34 percent of Americans believe that the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

The jump from 13 percent in 2012 might be attributable to the fact that the survey was conducted  shortly after the Boston Bombings, which has led to citizens being more willing to sacrifice rights for safety. A comparable but even larger jump in percentage happened after September 11.

Young people are more willing to agree that the First Amendment goes too far; 47 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 30 think so — a percentage which steadily decreases as the age bracket increases. Only 23 percent of people 60+ agree. Minorities are also more likely to agree that the First Amendment goes too far.

The study also revealed freedom of speech was considered the most important freedom by people (47 percent). Next was freedom of religion (10 percent), freedom of choice (7 percent), the right to vote (5 percent), and the right to bear arms (5 percent). Surprisingly, though the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is often quoted in speeches and movies, only 3% of people found this to be the most important American freedom, just above the 1 percent who favored freedom of the press.

While 75 percent of Americans believed high school students should have the ability to exercise these guaranteed rights, 23 percent disagreed, perhaps on the basis that high school students aren’t mature enough to use them responsibly.

Read the full survey results for statistics on music, media, religion, and gay marriage.

Caroline Mahony is an editorial intern with Human Events.

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