July 1, 2019

Americans are becoming increasingly aware of their rights under the First Amendment, according to the 2019 State of the First Amendment survey released by the Freedom Forum Institute.

The survey found that 71 percent of respondents were able to name at least one First Amendment right, compared to just 51 percent of respondents in the 2018 survey.

Freedom of speech (64 percent) was the most commonly recalled right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Next was freedom of religion (29 percent), freedom of the press (22 percent) and right of assembly (12 percent). At just four percent, the right to petition was the least likely of the five freedoms to be recalled.

The 2019 results are an improvement from the previous year, where 56 percent of participants recalled freedom of speech, and fewer than 20 percent recalled freedom of the press.

Respondents also expressed strong support for the First Amendment rights of student journalists and the media in general, with 64 percent agreeing that public school students shouldn’t have to seek approval from school authorities to publish controversial stories in the student newspaper.

But even with the surge in First Amendment awareness among Americans, the survey found that participants still harbored misconceptions about the law and its protections.

About 16 percent of respondents said the First Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, while 65 percent of respondents said First Amendment rights are violated when social media companies ban users for posting objectionable content. (The First Amendment only applies to federal, state, and local governmental actors, not privately owned entities.)

The 2019 State of the First Amendment survey was conducted in partnership with Fors Marsh Group, a polling firm.

Freedom Forum Institute