Americans’ support for the First Amendment rebounded strongly over the past year, a new study says.
Three-quarters of Americans say it “does not go too far” in ensuring Americans’ freedom. That’s a jump from 57% last year after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 stirred public debate about the role of social media during a crisis and the media’s use of shocking images, according to State of the First Amendment 2015, a report by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in partnership with USA TODAY.
A year ago, 38% said the First Amendment goes too far, but the current survey shows only 19% agrees with the sentiment. The study saw a similar dive in public opinion and a subsequent recovery after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the authors noted.
“Once again there is a falloff in the number of those who say the First Amendment goes too far when we move away from a terrorist attack,” says Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, one of the authors of the study. “We ought to be very vigilant when these attacks occur” and not hastily pass laws that limit freedoms. “The law are permanent, the emotions that surround these events are not.”
The study, developed by Policinski and Ken Dautrich, president of The Stats Group. was based on telephone interviews with 1,002 American adults.
STUDY: Newseum’s First Amendment survey
RIEDER: Real-world consequences of journalism scandals
The study also found that many people aren’t very familiar with just what is in the First Amendment. It found that one-third of Americans can’t name any of the rights it guarantees. Less than two-thirds of survey respondents – 57% vs. 68% a year ago — were able to cite freedom of speech as one protected by the amendment. Only 19% were able to cite the freedom of religion, down from 29%
One in ten mentioned the freedom of the press, as many as those who were able to recall the right to assemble. The right to petition seems to have been forgotten by nearly all Americans, as only 2% were able to name it as being part of the First Amendment.
Americans are also skeptical about the news media’s claim to objectivity. Only about a quarter — 24% — believe that the news media try to report on news without bias, a 17-point drop from last year. It’s the lowest since the study first began asking this question in 2004.
A flurry of headlines in recent months about the journalistic sins of high-profile media personalities – Brian Williams, who was demoted at NBC for lying; and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, a former aide to then-President Bill Clinton whose contribution to the Clinton Foundation came to light recently — may have negatively influenced respondents’ feelings about the news media, the study said.
Older audiences are more likely to buy into the media’s mantle of objectivity, with 26% of those 50 or older agreeing with the claim. Only 7% of 18-29 year olds agree. Democrats (36%) are much more likely to believe in the news media try to report without bias as opposed to Republicans (19%).
*Christian nation: A slight majority, 51%, believes the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation, largely unchanged since the question was first asked in the 2007 poll. The belief is more prevalent among older respondents, 54%, than younger people, 37%.
*Serving gay couples: Despite advancements in gay rights, the percentage of people who agree that wedding service providers should be required to serve same-sex couples has fallen to 38% from 52% in 2013.
*Recording police: Eighty-eight% of Americans say they support allowing people to record the activities of the police as long as they do not interfere with police actions.
*Depicting Mohammad: Sixty percent say they are in favor of allowing cartoonists to publish the images of prophet Mohammad, while 32% are against this. The survey didn’t ask about the images of other religions.
*Confederate flag: About a third, 35%, agrees that the government should be allowed to deny issuing license plates to a group that intends to display a confederate flag on the plates. The majority, 56%, opposes the government’s right to deny.
Original article here.