The State of the First Amendment survey, conducted each year since 1997 by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, tests Americans’ knowledge of their core freedoms and samples their opinions on First Amendment issues of the day.
The 2015 survey questions covered topics including the use of Confederate flags on license plates, perceptions of news media bias, photography of police by the public, the use of police “body cams” and whether the public should have access to images from these cameras. Other topics included religious objections to providing wedding-related services to same-sex couples, the impact on religious liberty of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, and whether cartoonists should be free to draw images of the Prophet Muhammad.
Other questions explored the extent of support for student speech when writing about school officials, public support for National Security Agency surveillance and whether individuals, corporations and unions should be able to donate as much as they wish to candidates.
Finally, the survey again found that most Americans are unable to name more than one or two of the five freedoms in the First Amendment —religion, speech, press, assembly and petition— and that one-third cannot name any of the five.
The nationwide sampling — supported in part by a grant from the Gannett Foundation and presented in partnership with USA TODAY — was done by telephone between May 14 and 23, and reached 1,002 adults age 18 or older.
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