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First the good news. More than 93% of Americans consider the First Amendment a vital part of their rights as citizens. That’s according to a survey conducted by the nonprofit Freedom Forum in its 2023 The First Amendment: Where America Stands survey.
Yet the survey showed there is widespread misunderstanding or a lack of knowledge of what specific rights the First Amendment protects and disagreement about how well those rights are protected. There are five specific rights in the First Amendment: the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.
There also are disparities between which rights younger and older people value most. Religious freedom is less important to young people, who also are more willing to block what they perceive as hate speech.
The March 2023 survey of 801 respondents included these findings:
Six in 10 Americans knew the FIrst Amendment protects hate speech, but 40% would ban it.
Nearly two-thirds said business owners shouldn’t be forced to promote causes that violate their religious beliefs, although others felt protection from discrimination was more important.
About a third didn’t realize the First Amendment protects books, movies, music, art and other forms of creative expression as free speech.
About two-thirds wanted politicians to be less heavy-handed about what’s being taught in classrooms, preferring those decisions to be made by parents, teachers and students.
There’s broad support for the right to speak up and protest, even angrily, at public meetings.
More than 20% saw the news media as a threat to liberty, not a protector, demonstrating that attacks on the credibility, fairness and accuracy of news outlets are having an impact.