The State of our First Amendment is Sobering

by | Mar 8, 2022 |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What is the state of the First Amendment? I would say the overall health of the First Amendment is not good at all, but there is good news among the bad. Yes, only 29% could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment, but that was the lowest percentage Ive seen in the last seven surveys. And while the percentage that could name a single freedom was down a few points, the number that could name two freedoms was up from 12% to 22%.

There also seems to be a sentiment that students should be able to express themselves, both in school newspapers and on social media, without reprisals from the schools. Compare that with the sentiments that the First Amendment goes too far and that those with potentially controversial opinions should be disinvited from speaking at public institutions. The opinions that social media companies are subject to First Amendment restrictions, even after having it read to them, shows the general lack of understanding. Are things better in 2021 than they were in 2019? Ive certainly not seen any evidence to that effect.

The good news behind this report is that it shows that many of the issues in our country are based on a lack of understanding of the supreme law of the land. That may not sound like good news, but remember, as Thomas Jefferson said:

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves: and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their controul with a wholsome discretion, the remedy is, not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. this is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

I first became aware of the State of the First Amendment (SOFA) survey in early 2014. Since then, Ive reviewed the results every year until 2019, which is the last report on the website. The 2019 survey was conducted for the Freedom Forum Institution by Fors Marsh Group. According to the report, the survey sample was designed to provide nationally representative estimates for adults 18 years of age and older. Well start with the participant’s familiarity with the First Amendment.

Familiarity with the First Amendment

As you may know, the First Amendment is part of the U.S. Constitution. Can you name any of the specific rights that are guaranteed by the First Amendment?

Appendix A, State of the First Amendment Survey

The first question participants were asked is the same one that got me started with the Constitution Study: How many rights guaranteed by the First Amendment could they name? While the 2019 responses were better than 2018, they are still not encouraging.


2019 State of the First Amendment Survey

Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed could not name a single freedom protected by the First Amendment. This is the lowest number since Ive been following the report, but you may notice that in 2018 that number was 40%, the highest Ive seen. While a large percentage of respondents correctly named Freedom of Speech, a growing number of incorrect answers were also given.


2019 State of the First Amendment Survey

The 2019 SOFA survey also found statistically significant demographic differences among those who could recall certain freedoms. Education was the most common predictor of recalling a First Amendment right – participants with more education were more likely to recall freedom of speech, religion and assembly.

Another interesting question asked on the survey was if the respondents believed that First Amendment protections go too far? In 2019 the number who agreed with that sentiment was 29%, up from 23% the previous two years.

If a third of respondents cant name a single freedom protected by the First Amendment, and 29% of them think those protections go too far, what does that mean for those freedoms?

Freedom of Speech

There has been quite a controversy lately regarding cancel culture. What are the responsibilities of social media companies regarding the content posted by their users? Are there any legal liabilities for what their users post? The 2019 SOFA survey asked respondents if they agreed with the statement, Social media companies violate usersFirst Amendment rights when they ban users based on the content of their posts.” Even though they had just had the First Amendment read to them, a significant majority agreed with the statement.

A majority of participants (65%) agreed that social media companies violate usersFirst Amendment rights when they ban social media accounts. There was a measurable partisan split, with a greater percentage of Republicans (71%) than Democrats (62%) agreeing with the statement. Surprisingly, participants who recalled three or more First Amendment freedoms were also more likely to agree (71%) with the statement than participants who recalled two or fewer freedoms (64%). The results suggest confusion about the application of the First Amendment protections on social media platforms.

State of the First Amendment Survey



According to the survey, it appears the majority of Americans not only dont know what the First Amendment says, but they dont understand how to apply it. Even 71% of those who could name three or more of the rights protected appear to believe that the words Congress shall make no law…” means social media companies shall make no rules.

Social media companies are not the only entities for whom the Freedom of Speech seemed to be misapplied. Respondents were also asked if they agreed with the statement, public institutions should revoke invitations to guest speakers” in different scenarios.


A majority of respondents think a speaker should be disinvited on the mere accusation of sexual harassment, the possibility of protests, or even if someone might be offended. This is commonly referred to as The Hecklers Veto.” All it takes for someones right to Free Speech to be infringed is for someone to claim they are offended or that it may cause others to act badly. As for the accusation of sexual harassment, notice it was based on the accusation, not the conviction. Anyone can accuse you of anything, but in America, you used to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Notice, that in each of these situations, those 18-49 are more likely to infringe on the rights of the speaker than those 50 and older. Now compare this with the statement, Public school students should be allowed to report on controversial issues in their student newspapers without the approval of school authorities.”


Almost the same number of people who think someone should be disinvited by public institutions for discussing controversial subjects believe students should be allowed to report on them without approval. Even more, think that students should be allowed to express their opinions on social media without being punished by their school.


Do you see the hypocrisy? Compare how many people think the students should be allowed to express their opinions with the number who wish to deny speakers their right to do the same.

Freedom of the Press

What about Freedom of the Press. How important do the respondents think that is?


Seventy-two percent agreed that it is important for our democracy that the news media act as a watchdog on government,” and 48% agreed with the statement that the news media, tries to report the news accurately and without bias.” Not surprisingly, the reactions to the latter statement differ wildly between the two largest political parties, with 39% of Republicans agreeing compared with 56% of Democrats. This trend continued when respondents were asked if they agreed with the statement, The spread of fake news and misinformation on the internet is a serious threat to our democracy.” While 77% agreed that fake news was a threat, the split was 84% for Republicans and 77% for Democrats.

Freedom of Religion

The last question asked on the SOFA survey involved Freedom of Religion. Respondents were asked if freedom of religion applied to all groups, even those that most people would consider extreme or fringe.” Overall, 82% agreed. Even when broken down by the religion of the respondent, the differences were only a few percentage points. Only 5% of respondents strongly disagreed with the statement.

Maybe you found this report depressing. Hopefully, rather than wallowing in what is wrong, together we can work to make it right.

Paul Engel

Author and speaker Paul Engel has spent more than 20 years studying and teaching about both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. That experience helps Paul explain difficult concepts in a way most people can understand. As one manager described, “Paul can take the most complex idea and explain it in a way my grandmother can understand.” Freely admitting that he “learned more about our Constitution from School House Rock (a Saturday morning cartoon) than in 12 years of school,” he says that anyone can be a constitutional scholar. Since 2014 I have been helping everyday Americans read and study the Constitution of their country and teaching the rising generation to be free. Using news and current events as a springboard, I explain the Constitution and encourage others to stand up and secure the blessings of liberty for themselves, their children, and the nation.

Use the code ‘OUTLOUD’ and save 15%
Notify of
1 Comment
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 months ago

We are all saturated with news events and social media chatter. The pressures of everyday life, when combined with the current news feed, the stresses of everyday life can force us to multitask in ways that will

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for educational, general information, and entertainment purposes only and is never intended to constitute medical or legal advice or to replace the personalized care of a primary care practitioner or legal expert.

While we endeavor to keep this information up to date and correct, the information provided by America Out Loud, its website(s), and any properties (including its radio shows and podcasts) makes no representations, or warranties of any kind, expressed, or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to its website(s) or the information, products, services or related graphics and images contained on the website(s) for any purpose.

The opinions expressed on the website(s), and the opinions expressed on the radio shows and podcasts, are the opinions of the show hosts and do not necessarily represent the opinions, beliefs, or policies of anyone or any entity we may endorse. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

At no time, nor in any event, will we be liable for any loss, or damage, including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss of data or profits arising out of, in an association of, or connection with the use of this website.

Through this website, users can link to other websites that may be listed. Those websites are not under the control of America Out Loud or its brands. We have no control over the nature, content, or availability of those sites. America Out Loud has no control over what the sites do with the information they collect. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation, nor does it endorse the views expressed with or by them.

Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, America Out Loud takes no responsibility for, nor are we, and will not be liable for being temporarily unavailable due to technical difficulties beyond our control. America Out Loud does not sell, trade, nor market email addresses or other personal data.

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

The only way to achieve liberty and peace is to restore law and order. And the only way to restore law and order is to literally crush the forces of evil. When that begins to happen, we do actually see the positive side of tyranny and anarchy. Conflict is a bedfellow of oppression. Therefore we must end the conflict and, in doing so, end the tyranny. Here’s the positive side of this war…

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

The context is that about 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 develop post-COVID symptoms. Severe outpatients also are affected. Characteristic symptoms include headache, hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of olfactory function, sleep disturbance, muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, and chest or abdominal pain…

Be the One.

Be the One.

Be the one — no longer willing to huddle together in the helpless band — the one who dares to join the fight. Another will follow you and then another, and in a flash of time, that bleeding hulk of our nation — once the great light of liberty to the world, now barely flickering — will rise again to throw off the wolves like it has done before, sending them scurrying for safety…

Major Medical Mystery: Why Some People Despite Exposure Don’t Get COVID

Major Medical Mystery: Why Some People Despite Exposure Don’t Get COVID

A small fraction of Americans have escaped COVID infection. CDC uses a figure of 60% for those infected, while the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington says that 76% have been infected. The remainder may have escaped exposure or been exposed but escaped infection. The latter people are the subject of the medical mystery…

Correcting America’s Course Back to the Constitutional Rule of Law

Correcting America’s Course Back to the Constitutional Rule of Law

The US Constitution must scrupulously be followed, especially by the judiciary. It is not for judges to make laws; it is for them to observe and rule on the constitutionality of issues before them. Their oaths, taken upon their confirmations, should include the understanding that their failures to follow judicial protocols would end in their termination…

Does Joe Biden Aspire to be America’s Last President?

Does Joe Biden Aspire to be America’s Last President?

Most ominously, no American administration has ever seemed so entirely unconcerned about hemorrhaging political capital. And that lack of concern about voters’ approval can only mean that this administration no longer believes it relies on political capital (the consent of the governed) for power. We can only assume that this Marxist-aligned administration intends to authorize itself with whatever power it requires to achieve its ends…

Criminal Intimidation Led By Schumer and Pelosi are America’s Domestic Terrorists

Criminal Intimidation Led By Schumer and Pelosi are America’s Domestic Terrorists

The SCOTUS leak was explicitly designed to tip the balance back to Progressivisms demands and rally the Democrat base to intimidate conservatives, political and business leaders by threats of violence because the country is in a Biden mess, one he created in January 2021 to reflect his party’s image as one that clings to the failed philosophy of Marx and Engles…

Pennsylvania Races Plunge to Swampy Politics 

Pennsylvania Races Plunge to Swampy Politics 

The establishment has money and counts itself as power brokers. They love the status quo, the “don’t rock the boat” mentality. They pronounce, “This is our guy!” and expect the masses to get in line. However, many are standing up and deciding to vote conscience over party or affiliation – regardless. But aren’t those the same “stand up” attitude and actions that formed this great nation?

America Out Loud 6 years

Celebrating 6 incredible years fighting to restore liberty and justice to our beloved America.

Your Source for Free Speech, Talk Radio, Podcasts, and News.


Here we take on the challenges of our generation so that we can preserve future generations. Please consider making a contribution in the fight for liberty!


The APPS are free; the mission is priceless!

Free APP

Podcast Networks

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts

Subscribe and Listen on Your Favorite APP

Our Columnists and Show Hosts

Truth For Health

Apple Podcasts

COVID Solution Summit

Apple Podcasts

Evacuating Americans & fully-vetted Afghan's at Risk - Help Us!

Apple Podcasts

Empowering and mentoring conservative trailblazers from Generation Z to win!

Apple Podcasts

Turning Point Action is Recruiting Precinct Chairs - Become a Grassroots Warrior Today!

Apple Podcasts

Please join us to protect the Supreme Court:
Sign the Petition!

Apple Podcasts

The LATINO USA EXIT from the Democrat Party, click for details...

Apple Podcasts

Fighting corporate censorship and ensuring voter integrity...

Apple Podcasts

Support wounded and fallen police officers. The Wounded Blue.

Wounded Blue
Share via
Copy link