Are your First Amendment protections under attack?

Published 9:12 am Monday, March 25, 2019

More than half of the respondents to a survey of 2,000 Americans believe that the nation’s First Amendment protections are under threat.

The survey examined basic knowledge about the U.S. government and sentiment about freedoms protected under the First Amendment.

It found that 57 percent of respondents expressed concern that the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — part of the Bill of Rights and a cornerstone of American democracy — are at risk.

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The survey was conducted in Fall 2018 by market researcher OnePoll in conjunction with the Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company.

A strong majority of respondents (84 percent) identified freedom of speech as the most important of the First Amendment protections.

Freedom of religion ranked second, with freedom of the press third. Freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government were fourth and fifth, respectively.

These results are concerning, says Alan C. Miller, founder and CEO of the News Literacy Project, a national nonpartisan education nonprofit. “The online epidemic of misinformation, false news stories and election disinformation campaigns pose significant threats to democratic rights. The respondents’ alarm is well-placed.”

News consumption habits only add to the concern: 48 percent of respondents said they relied on online sources to stay up to date on current events, and one in seven said they felt unable to tell the difference between real news and fake news. In addition, 31 percent didn’t think that the media strives to report the news without bias.

These are among the reasons that Samuel Hubbard is taking a stand for the First Amendment. In 2018 the company teamed up with the News Literacy Project to shine a light on the important freedoms protected under the First Amendment, particularly freedom of the press, with its Freedom Collection of women’s shoes. Each shoe in this line features the First Amendment engraved on its sole. A portion of each online sale goes to the News Literacy Project to support The Sift, the organization’s free weekly newsletter highlighting teachable moments in news literacy.

“The results of this survey attest that the public recognizes the value of the First Amendment and the freedoms it protects. We are gratified to support the important work of the News Literacy Project with our Freedom Shoe line. It’s essential that in today’s charged environment we remember what it stands for,” says Bruce R. Katz, founder and CEO of Samuel Hubbard.

The study also found that one in five respondents were unfamiliar with the Bill of Rights, and just 26 percent knew how many amendments it contains.

Many also struggled to properly identify the five freedoms contained in the First Amendment. Half of those surveyed thought that “liberty” was a protected freedom, and 49 percent included the “pursuit of happiness” in the Bill of Rights, while 3 percent thought that “life” was also a protected freedom by the First Amendment.