Survey Reveals Substantial Support For First Amendment, But People Misunderstand Its Protections

Report card

According to a newly released American Bar Association civics literacy survey, the American public displays strong support for the First Amendment, but knowledge of the specifics of its protections are lacking.

For example, of the 1,000 adults surveyed, 81 percent agreed that people should be able to publicly criticize the U.S. president or any other government leader, but 18 percent thought that freedom of the press does not fall under the First Amendment. Another 18 percent incorrectly concluded that the right of the people to peaceably assemble is not a right or a freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Most respondents correctly answered that under the First Amendment, the government does not have the right to review what journalists write prior to publication, but more than half incorrectly believed that the First Amendment does not permit flag burning as a sign of political protest.

The survey results were released at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to mark National Law Day. This year’s theme was “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.”

ABA Survey of Civic Literacy