Americans are politically ignorant. Far too many can’t name the three branches of government (is asking to know three things really too much?) and even more don’t have a clue as to what rights our Constitution protects.
In particular, the First Amendment really puzzles Americans. A whopping 37% cannot name a single right it guarantees (this is slightly higher than the 33% who don’t know a single branch of government).
A Real Stumper
Even the right most closely associated with the First Amendment, free speech, only rings a bell to 48% of survey respondents. For a nation built on arguments — pamphlets and other circulars rallied support for the nascent independence movement; essays and speeches ultimately led to the Constitution’s ratification — and which prides itself for largely unfettered free speech, that only 48% can name it as a right disappoints.
And that disappointment only grows as Americans struggle to name other First Amendment guarantees:
- 15% identified the freedom of religion (the First Amendment’s leading topic and another source of historical pride given the religious persecution that pushed many of the colonies’ first settlers into the New World)
- 14% said the freedom of the press (Donald Trump is not one of the 14%; neither are those who fawn over his attacks on the press)
- 10% named the right to (peacefully) assemble (no surprise given antipathy to protesters and a weird fascination with running them over)
- 3% remember the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances (and who can blame the 97% — after all, it is the last right mentioned and reading all 45 words of the amendment is a big ask)
For my valued readers who discovered new rights just now, here’s the amendment in full:
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.
In fact, I’ll link the Constitution, too. Take 20 minutes and read it. Maybe you’ll learn something. After all, Americans have a long way to go before understanding the document that governs our nation.