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Study: 39 Percent Of Americans Don’t Know Purpose Of First Amendment

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Peter Hasson Senior Reporter
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A remarkable 39 percent of Americans are unable to name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to the Newseum Institute’s annual survey on the subject.

Barely half — 54 percent — of Americans know that free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to the study. Just 17 percent of Americans identified religious freedom as one of their First Amendment rights. Only 12, 11 and two percent of participants identified the right of assembly, freedom of the press and the right to petition, respectively, as First Amendment rights. And 39 percent of Americans couldn’t name a single right protected by the First Amendment.

One in five Americans — 21 percent, according to the study — believe the First Amendment “goes too far in the rights it guarantees,” while 75 percent disagree. A similar 2015 survey by Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 support government censorship of “statements that are offensive to minority groups.”

The Newseum Institute also asked more specific questions related to the First Amendment.

Half of Americans either mildly or strongly agreed, “A government official should be required to provide marriage certificates to same sex couples even if that official objects to same sex marriage on religious grounds,” while 43 percent disagreed.

Just under half of all Americans — 47 percent — agreed that students should be allowed to say whatever they want on college campuses, even if it’s offensive, while 40 percent disagreed.

Just 35 percent of Americans said that high schoolers should have the freedom to offend their peers, while 62 percent disagreed.

Follow Peter Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson