If there’s one single paragraph of the U.S. Constitution essential for the functioning of a democratic government, it’s Article 1 of the Bill of Rights:
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.
That’s why this finding from the Newseum Institute’s 2016 State of the First Amendment survey is so damn depressing:
From the survey:
- When asked to name the five specific freedoms in the First Amendment, 54% of Americans named freedom of speech, followed by 17% who said freedom of religion, 11% mentioned freedom of the press, 12% mentioned the right to assemble, and 2% named the right to petition. Thirty-nine percent of Americans could not name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
- In 2016, the percentage increases for those who could name freedom of the press and freedom of assembly were +1 percentage point and +2 percentage points, respectively. The increase for those who couldn’t name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment was +6 percentage points. Awareness for those who could name freedom of speech decreased -3 percentage points, while awareness of freedom of religion decreased -2 percentage points and awareness of the right to petition decreased -2 percentage points.
- Fifty percent of those without a college degree could not name any First Amendment freedom; 27% of those with a college degree could not name any.