Survey Weighs Confidence in First Amendment Rights

Free speech
Free speech | Image by zimmytws/Shutterstock

Americans across the political spectrum are concerned about the protection of free speech in the United States, according to a recent survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

The second edition of the quarterly National Speech Index, which was conducted between April 5 and 11, queried respondents about their confidence in the security of their First Amendment rights. Only 34% of participants said they had “quite a lot” or “full” confidence that either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump would protect First Amendment rights if elected to office again.

Roughly two-thirds expressed apprehension regarding the trajectory of freedom of speech.

Notably, when asked about confidence in Biden’s commitment to safeguarding First Amendment rights, 45% of respondents expressed “very little” or “no” confidence. The results for Trump were similar, with 47% of respondents claiming they had “very little” or “no” confidence in the former president’s commitment to freedom of speech.

When broken down by political ideology, 82% of “liberals” unsurprisingly reported very little or no confidence in Trump, and 78% of “conservatives” expressed very little or no confidence in Biden.

The group of respondents identifying as “very conservative” expressed the most concern over free speech, with 53% stating that their First Amendment rights were “not at all” secure.

Furthermore, attitudes towards the involvement of colleges and universities in political matters vary significantly across ideological lines. More than one-third of “very liberal” Americans believe that institutions of higher learning should “often” or “always” take a stance on political issues, while 12% said “never.”

However, 43% of “very conservative” respondents said colleges and universities should “never” take a political position, while 13% said they should “frequently” take a political stance.

When asked whether they felt it was acceptable to use violence to stop a speaker from delivering their remarks, 2% of respondents said “always,” 7% said “sometimes,” 9% said “rarely,” and 81% said “never.” However, respondents were somewhat more tolerant of shouting down a speaker, with 5% saying it is “always” acceptable and 20% stating it is “sometimes” acceptable, while 28% said “rarely,” and 46% said “never.”

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