What Rights are in the 1st Amendment? Most Don’t Know

A sizable portion of the American public seems is ignorant of the very fabric of our country’s government and history.

Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) surveyed over 1,000 American adults, finding a shocking lack of knowledge as it pertains to U.S. politics among the general populace.

The results are disheartening to say the least.

Only 48 percent of those surveyed were able to identify freedom of speech as being a right enshrined by the First Amendment, although far fewer could identify other rights accorded.

These include freedom of religion (15 percent), freedom of the press (14 percent), right of peaceful assembly (10 percent), and right to petition the government (three percent).

Meanwhile, only 26 percent of Americans could name all three branches of the federal government — that would be the executive, legislative, and judicial, for those playing at home.

While conservatives were more likely to be able to name all three branches than liberals or moderates, the overall proportion of the public that can name all three has fallen by 12 percent since 2011.

The First Amendment reads as follows:

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.

The original proposed language for the First Amendment was written by James Madison, and it read likes this:

The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed. The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable. The people shall not be restrained from peaceably assembling and consulting for their common good; nor from applying to the Legislature by petitions, or remonstrances, for redress of their grievances.

Brian Sussman

Reader Interactions


  1. Peter Jansen says

    If only! The press as a bulwark of liberty would once have been a logical idea. But good government isn’t newsworthy and disaster sells. Unscrupulous journalists get rewarded for reporting fake disasters and promoting ‘solutions’ that bring about real ones, which can then yield further headlines. Real inconvenient truth are suppressed because the people must be kept in a state of perpetual panic by gory disasters, even if they are pure fiction. Facts are pearls cast before swine — Green lies are firecrackers cast behind cattle. We have lived in a stampede for decades and the edge of the nearest cliff isn’t far off.

    Not a day passes without some important freedom being lost at the behest of the free press, including freedom of speech by the unanointed itself. Witness Democrats’ notions of amending the First Amendment, to end freedom of speech while leaving freedom of the press untouched.

    Here in the UK, the government want Internet giants to skew search results out of a ‘responsibility’ to guide the people towards ‘wholesome’ news. The BBC, Green around the clock year in and year out, was officially criticized for allowing former Chancellor Lord Lawson to tell the truth about ‘Global Warming’ in a program. David Bellamy, formerly a man that they just couldn’t get enough of, has disappeared from TV many years ago, ever since he became the nearest thing to a reprogrammed terminator that can be found within the nearest 10 gigaparsecs.

    Politicians don’t get elected on good policies. What they need is press support, and that is only available with disastrous politics. Freedom of religion is a dangerous rival to freedom of the press, not a natural ally to it, and the press will oppose it as much as they can afford to. Freedom of peaceful assembly being important, the press will naturally champion some supposed freedom of violent assembly, with all kinds of terrorist acts reported as ‘protests’, riots as ‘civil disobedience’. To go with the agenda, Socialist injustice becomes ‘social justice’. With practically every country in the world (except Russia and Israel) pushing for a Clinton victory, who is being hounded on account of alleged foreign interference in the Presidential election? For the record, Trump was a poor choice as a candidate, but without him the Greens might well now triumph in the Final Solution for the Menschenproblem now being well under way.

    • Peter Jansen says

      In my enthusiasm, I expressed myself clumsily while seeking to praise David Bellamy. As a man of integrity, he deserves a clarification. What I meant to say was, that Prof. Bellamy has been sidelined by the mainstream media ever since they discovered him to be a man of principle, who will not push the party line contrary to his perception of the facts. They couldn’t get enough of him before, because their short-term agenda was less ambitious and his sincerely believed message was enough for them.

    • Peter Jansen says

      Many people don’t believe in God. We can’t make them believe — only God can. We are doomed unless people understand what they need to do regardless whether or not there is a god — and, of course, that Mother Nature is a fiction used in bad rhetoric, not an actual personal deity.

      • Brian Sussman says

        You’re correct, Peter.
        Only God is able to open the eyes of our heart.
        Hope you’ll keep coming back to my website.

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