Monday, October 19, 2009

Constitutional Knowledge

Asked what rights are mentioned in the First Amendment and, over the years, people have been okay at naming them.  Not great, but okay.  The First Amendment Center does this survey (full report here).

If you look at the table you'll see few dramatic changes from 1997 to 2009:
  •  The ability to identify Freedom of the Press as a right has slightly increased from 11% to 16%.
  • Freedom of Speech rose from 49% to 63%, then in 2009 hit 55%.
  • Freedom of Religion has hovered around the 20% mark over time, with a few blips up and down.
  • Right of Assembly/Association inched up from 10% to 14%.
  • Right to Petition Doubled!!!  Okay, to be fair, only from 2% to 4%.
It's hardly surprising that Freedom of Speech gets nailed most often.  We almost treat the First Amendment and the right to piss and moan and speak out as one in the same.  "It's my First Amendment right," you'll often hear someone say.  It's a bit disappointing that so few people recognize the freedoms of religion and the press as being in an amendment that reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 I'll discuss more of the trends found in these surveys as the week progresses.

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