June 24, 2014

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press…what were the other ones? If you’re flummoxed by that question, you can at least take solace in the fact that you’re not alone.

Just 1 percent of U.S. adults know that the First Amendment guarantees the right to petition the government, according to the 2014 State of the First Amendment survey released by the Newseum Institute today. The survey, which is conducted by the First Amendment Center, also revealed that about 38 percent of adults surveyed think the First Amendment goes too far in protecting freedom of expression.


The survey is based on a questionnaire that was administered to a sample of 1,006 U.S. adults.

Among its findings:

  • 68 percent of Americans know that the First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech. That’s the highest percentage since the survey was first administered in 1997.
  • 36 percent of Americans think the primary qualification to be a journalist is to produce objective, fact-based stories. 21 percent say the most important factor is working for an established news organization and 14 percent say pay is the most important qualification.
  • 41 percent of people surveyed think that news organizations try to report without bias. 80 percent think the media should be a government watchdog.
  • The majority of respondents (55 percent) say their primary news source is television. 33 percent say they get their news from the Internet.

The survey also revealed that 14 percent of Americans don’t know that the First Amendment provides for freedom of the press, and 29 percent couldn’t name any of the rights it guarantees, down from 36 percent last year.

For those of you still counting, there are five.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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