Newseum: Only 19% Know 1st Amendment Guarantees Freedom of Religion

By Terence P. Jeffrey | July 6, 2015 | 10:37 AM EDT

The Newseum in Washington, D.C., features the words of the First Amendment on its facade. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Only 19 percent of American adults know that the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of religion, according to a new survey by the Newseum Institute.

Only 10 percent know the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press.

And 33 percent of Americans have no idea at all what rights the First Amendment guarantees.

The First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law resepecting an establishment of religion, or abridging 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.”

The Newseum Institute survey conducted by Dr. Ken Dautrich, president of the Stats Group, interviewed 1,002 American adults from May 14 through 23. The survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

The respondents were asked: “As you may know, the First Amendment is part of the U.S. Constitution. Can you name any of the specific rights that are guaranteed by the First Amendment?”

Fifty-seven percent were able to say that the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech. But only 19 percent were able to say that it guarantees freedom of religion. Only 10 percent were able to say it guarantees freedom of the press. Only 10 percent were able to say it guarantees the right of assembly, and only 2 percent were able to say it guarantees the right to petition.

Thirty-three percent of the Americans surveyed were unable to cite a single right that was guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In the second question in the Newseum poll, the surveyors read respondents the actual words of the First Amendment.

They then asked this question: “Based on your feelings about the First Amendment, please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: The First Amendment goes too far in the rights in guarantees.”

19 percent agreed that the First Amendment goes too far, and 75 percent of the respondents disagreed.

The Newseum Institute has asked this question in 17 annual surveys starting in 1999.  The percentage who disagreed with the assertion that the First Amendment “goes too far” peaked at 81 percent in 2012. It has declined since then.

The highest percentage of Americans agreed that the First Amendment goes too far in 2002. That year, 49 percent agreed that it goes too far and 47 percent disagreed.

In 18 annual surveys dating back to 1997, the highest percentage who were ever able to say that the First Amendment protects freedom of religion was 29 percent in 2014.

Last year also saw the highest percentage who were able to say that the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of speech. But that high point was only 68 percent.

In the 18 years of surveys, awareness that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press peaked in 2010—at 18 percent.

In the Newseum Institutes’s 2008 survey complete ignorance of the First Amendment had its peak. In that year, 40 percent of those surveyed could not name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment.