Newseum’s First Amendement Survey Results Are Mixed Bag of Scary and Encouraging

It's another chapter in the age-old test of whether Americans can name or identify things about their own country.

It’s another chapter in the age-old test of whether Americans can name or identify things about their own country. In this case it’s things having to do with that protector of expression, the First Amendment. The Newseum Institute has been tracking Americans’ knowledge and opinions about the First Amendment since 1997, and its 2015 survey results are a mix of good and bad news for fans of the five freedoms.

Let’s take a look at some of the findings from the survey, which had a sample size of 1,002 with a 3.2 percent sampling error.

The bad:

  • Almost a full third of Americans can’t name any of the freedoms listed in the first amendment.
  • In keeping with the general media-mistrust zeitgeist, just 24 percent of those surveyed think the media tries to present non-biased reporting, the lowest reported percentage since that question was first posed in 2004 .
  • The percentage of people who feel the press should serve as a “government watchdog” also dropped, though it sits at 69 percent.

The good:

  • When asked whether recording police activity should be allowed, 88 percent of those surveyed agreed.
  • Unlimited campaign spending of the type unleashed by SCOTUS in its decision on Citizens United has few fans. Just 23 percent support the right of corporations or unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.
  • The percentage of respondents who feel the First Amendment goes too far with its rights guarantees has dropped to 19 percent from last year’s 38 percent.

Check out all the findings here.