Home » News » New study finds First Amendment ‘vital,’ but many divided on details

By Ken Paulson, published on September 23, 2021

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A full 36 percent of Americans believes that “hate speech should not be protected by the First Amendment, according to a new survey released this afternoon by the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan public policy center.


The survey, a successor to the Freedom Forum’s long-running State of the First Amendment report, finds that 94 percent see the First Amendment as “vital,” but this broad support erodes as participants share their views on the amendment’s individual freedoms — freedom of speech, press, religion, petition and assembly.


Among the Freedom Forum’s findings:


  • About 36 percent say that preventing hate speech — speech that conveys hate for others — is more important than maintaining free-speech protections. About 35 percent said preserving free-speech guarantees is more important, and 28 percent expressed no preference.
  • The news about the news is not good. Only 14 percent of respondents say they trust the news media, and 41 percent say that journalists pose a threat to the First Amendment.
  • There’s a clear split over whether businesses should be required to fulfill customers’ requests if they violate personal religious beliefs, with 37 percent of respondents on each side of the debate.
  • The protests of recent years have led to dramatically greater awareness of the right of assembly, with 65 percent able to identify it from a list of liberties.
  • Petition remains the least known of First Amendment freedoms, but 40 percent of respondents said they have contacted public officials seeking to change a law or policy.

“As First Amendment values are tested in today’s politically polarized, social media-connected world, Americans are increasingly unsure of how they apply,” the Freedom Forum notes in its executive summary. “But half of Americans are hopeful about the nation’s future and three-quarters say we can all work together despite political differences.”


The full survey results are available at www.whereAmericastands.org.


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