Civil Liberties

DATA: Second-Guessing the First Amendment


The First Amendment Center's State of the First Amendment survey, which polls Americans on their attitudes toward the First Amendment each year, found that in 2004 only 30 percent agreed that "the First Amendment goes too far in the freedoms it guarantees." However troubling that figure may be, it's a marked improvement over 2002, when a record 49 percent gave that response.

Still, people seem to be more fond of free speech in the abstract than in specific instances. While 88 percent thought we have either too little or about the right amount of ability to speak freely today, 63 percent thought people shouldn't "be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to racial groups," and an unsettling 41 percent thought newspapers should not be permitted to criticize the military's strategy and performance. Just over half said the war on terror justifies monitoring of "certain religious groups, even if that means infringing upon the religious freedom of those groups' members."

GRAPH: Does the First Amendment Go "Too Far"? (unavailable on-line)