Poll: Do Americans Still Value the First Amendment?

August 4, 2023
Positive Rating Constitution | First Liberty Insider

by Layton Brown & Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

Does America still love the First Amendment? Yes! According to a new survey, 93% believe the First Amendment is vital.

Every year, the Freedom Forum—a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering First Amendment freedoms —publishes “The First Amendment: Where America Stands.” This nationwide poll asks Americans about the “First Five,” the first set of liberties found in the Bill of Rights.

Overall, awareness of the First Amendment appears to be high (95%). Similarly, a consistent majority (64%) say they would vote to ratify the First Amendment again today. And when asked to choose whether the First Amendment should never be changed, 62% said it should not. That’s up from 54% in 2020. This is all encouraging, especially at a time when Americans are confronting increasing threats on their rights and freedoms.

Looking more closely at individual liberties, 91% can identify free speech as a constitutional right, making it the best known and most valued First Amendment freedom according to the results. Additionally, 66% say it is increasingly important to Americans that college campuses foster the free exchange of ideas, even if those ideas are offensive to some. That’s higher than the 59% reported in 2020.

It’s worth pointing out that freedom of speech is not the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights.

Religious liberty is first, but only 64% of participants identified it. While we would like to see this percentage higher, it has almost doubled since 2022 when only 39% of Americans could name Freedom of Religion as a right. What’s troubling is that only 11% consider it the most essential freedom.

But there is good news, especially for religious freedom in the marketplace. Nearly two-thirds—63%—said business owners should be able to refuse to create messages that violate their religious beliefs.

This is very positive considering the countless business owners and creative professionals across the country who are being attacked because they want to work and make a living in accordance with their faith. A prime example is our Sweet Cakes by Melissa case. Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein were punished and forced to close their family bakery simply because they declined to create a same-sex wedding cake.

Despite some positive trends, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Freedom Forum notes that “awareness of each of the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment—religion, speech, press, assembly and petition—has dipped slightly since 2020.” Even more alarming, a larger share of people leaned toward thinking the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it protects: 7% compared to 3% in 2022.

What’s especially concerning is that only one out of every 10 Americans see religious freedom as the most essential freedom. There seems to be confusion or lack of knowledge about religious liberty and why it’s so important for a flourishing society. The poll, for example, found that “31% say that freedom from discrimination is more important than freedom of religion.”

As our legal experts explain, our nation’s Founders took deliberate steps to put religious freedom first, and they did so for a reason. That’s because the liberty to live out one’s faith is the wellspring from which all other liberties flow. Religious freedom operates as the supporting foundation in the tower of civil liberties that we still fight to preserve. Without the freedom of religion, all other liberties—civil, economic and social—come crumbling down.

What can we take away from these recent findings? It’s certainly good that a majority of Americans believe the First Amendment is vital. Widespread support for the First Amendment shows there is still hope we can come together as Americans. We may disagree about politics, but at a basic level it seems we still overwhelmingly value freedom.

Whether it is living out our faith, expressing our opinion, assembling, or petitioning the government, it’s clear we need all of them to survive as a nation. Even still, many don’t know or fully understand exactly what’s enshrined in the First Amendment—and that means there’s a lot of work for us to do.

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