Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« The Seattle Pancake Renaissanc... | Forever Mies »

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Fear for America

posted by on September 13 at 11:22 AM

According to a new survey, almost no Americans can name all of the basic rights provided in the First Amendment; however, fully a quarter of Americans believe the First Amendment “goes too far” in its provision of rights and freedoms. It gets worse from there:

• One in ten believed that the right to practice no religion was “not important.”

• One in three agreed that the press has “too much freedom to do what it wants.”

• One in five believed that journalists shouldn’t be allowed to keep their sources confidential.

• More than a third believed journalists shouldn’t be allowed to criticize the military.

• Nearly two-thirds believed people should be barred from protesting in public.

• Nearly one third believed “fringe” religious groups should not be allowed to worship.

• Only 18 percent believed that public schools should not have explicitly Christian programming in December.

• Nearly half believed musicians should not be “allowed to sing songs with lyrics that others might find offensive.”

• Four in ten believed people should be barred from saying things in public that “religious groups might find offensive.”

• Two-thirds believed teachers and other public-school officials should be allowed to lead prayers in public schools.

• Two-thirds believed the US Constitution “establishes a Christian nation.”

• Half believed that public-school teachers should be allowed to use the Bible “as a factual text” in history (!!!) classes.

• Strong majorities believed the government should be allowed to require all media to allot an equal amount of time or page space to conservatives and liberals.

Not at all coincidentally, most were Christian, and more than half got most of their news from television.

RSS icon Comments


Wait, is this America or communist Russia?

Posted by Carollani | September 13, 2007 11:24 AM

I find this heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. More than anything, because it doesn't shock me. This should shock me. This should shock me! But I read it, and all I can think is "sounds about right." THAT is heartbreaking.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | September 13, 2007 11:30 AM

Levislade, I used to fear employers, now I'm only freaked out by their horrifying public displays of affection. Some short gnome-like creature yelled out During LaffHole's preview last night, "Hava Nagila!" (or however Josh wants malapropistigmatze the spleling).

Posted by Grrett | September 13, 2007 11:31 AM

That's it. I'm never setting foot in middle America. Ever.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | September 13, 2007 11:31 AM

I have said it on Slog before and will say it again. America is long since lost; Time to move to a nation that values freedom like Canada or Germany. LOL! Germany; the nation that brought us two world wars and Hitler is freer than we are.

And you know what? We did it to ourselves. There is no outside force that can destory America, our destruction will come from within and it certianly has.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | September 13, 2007 11:32 AM

I wish there was some way to only deprive these rights from the complacent assholes who think basic human rights go too far.

There was also a study a few years ago that showed that only 60 or so percent of Americans have a positive view of democracy. Once you have it, it's way too easy to take it for granted.

Posted by keshmeshi | September 13, 2007 11:33 AM

Of course, this gets at the core flaw in the "progressive" platform: attempting to gain control of the government without addressing the people in this survey directly basically puts progressives in the position of trying to force people to behave in a manner contrary to their beliefs. The only way the rest of the country will support us is if they believe that the behavior of "the other side" will ultimately be more oppressive. But that's hardly a stable foundation for political change.

Real progressives are trying to figure out ways to win the hearts and minds of these morons.

Posted by Judah | September 13, 2007 11:33 AM

I'm with #2. I want to be shocked. I wish I was shocked. But, I'm not. Mostly because those would be the answers I'd get if I were to ask my own parents those questions.

I've said it once and will say it again... Baby Boomers have ruined us all.

Posted by monkey | September 13, 2007 11:34 AM

@1 Wait, is this America or communist Russia?

america. in russia, they had no choice.

Posted by infrequent | September 13, 2007 11:36 AM

You just have to do the best you can to brainwash your children toward reality, instead of believing that Christ was the first "real" president of the United States. That's all. If you don't have children, then I guess you should write pointless posts to the slog. Ahem.

Posted by superyeadon | September 13, 2007 11:36 AM

Eh, I'd be scared if I was convinced this was something new. I think if you asked people about their opinions of the First Amendment in 1957, or 1907, you'd have still found a nontrivial amount of anti-freedom sentiment. Most Americans also aren't very politically involved, which is disturbing at some times and a godsend at others.

Posted by tsm | September 13, 2007 11:36 AM

On the plus side, none of the people surveyed will ever organize these beliefs behind a mission statement or political movement. I don't think we need to worry about this changing any fundamental basics of American politics.

These aren't beliefs that are hotly held, but answers to questions. Fund education for these fools' kids.

Posted by Ziggity | September 13, 2007 11:38 AM

We don't spend on education, and the media is controlled by corporate giants who sell weapons to governments. Who's going to tell you that your right to dissent is important?

Even the Stranger staff is more interested in talking about how passe protesting is and how they discovered Chris Cocker. The glory days of Santorum of fading quickly.

Posted by left coast | September 13, 2007 11:39 AM

Wow. That post just got worse as it went on.

Okay, doesn't surprise me that people can't name all the 1st amendment protections (who can remember that petitioning the government one, anyways).

1 in 10 don't believe you should be able to not practice a religion -- okay, there's always going to be a fringe element in these surveys.

A third think journalists shouldn't be able to criticize the military -- um, this is pretty bad, but maybe they've just fallen prey to the "you don't criticize during a war" propoganda.

Good lord, half think the Bible should be used as a factual text in history class! I'm going to go rock in the corner now.

Posted by Julie | September 13, 2007 11:40 AM

So, they sample 1000 people and that reflects the attitudes of 300 million? Somehow, I find this less than representative. I'd love to see the stats of who's being represented here.

Posted by Secret Squirrel | September 13, 2007 11:40 AM

The answer to 1984 is 1776.

@8 I agree to a point with the Baby Boomer generation. What will be said about us in 20-30 years?


Posted by Bald Face Lie | September 13, 2007 11:42 AM


Forgive me, but that's sort of the worst part for me. I want to think that in 1907 or 1957 there was less information, less education, less exposure....shouldn't we have progressed? Much of the rest of the world has managed to progress...

You're right, it isn't new. But seriously...when is it going to end?

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | September 13, 2007 11:42 AM

Well, I'd like to talk to you about why Indian people and African-American people don't mix. See:

Posted by PJ | September 13, 2007 11:42 AM

Not at all coincidentally, most were Christian, and more than half got most of their news from television.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Posted by jenk | September 13, 2007 11:43 AM

I don't know if you noticed, but 53% of people surveyed in 1999 said the press has too much freedom.

And while the number of people who strongly agree that the Bible should be used as a factual text hasn't changed since 2000, the number of people who strongly disagree has increased.

I think you need to look at the trends before you OMG.

Posted by Ziggity | September 13, 2007 11:45 AM

@15, if the survey responsdents are picked correctly, 1000 people is enough for an accurate sample. Statistics is crazy shit, man, but it works.

Posted by Statistics 101 | September 13, 2007 11:48 AM


...REALLY? You honestly believe they haven't mobilized in a political movement? What do you call Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, The Moral Majority, Fox News?

Make no mistake- we're one Supreme Court Justice away from ALL OF THIS.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | September 13, 2007 12:05 PM

@ 4 you can't ever leave the city limits of Seattle! I live in Capital Hill, work up in Everett and I feel like I'm crossing the mason-dixon line everyday...

Posted by jhell | September 13, 2007 12:07 PM

This isn't really new information. Most Americans are aggressively ignorant and authoritarian; they're not politically knowledgeable and just cling to this country like fleas on a dog.

If you want to read some real liberal political horror porn, try this:

"after analyzing the results of surveys conducted over time, in which people tended to give different and randomly inconsistent answers to the same questions, Converse concluded that “very substantial portions of the public” hold opinions that are essentially meaningless—off-the-top-of-the-head responses to questions they have never thought about, derived from no underlying set of principles. These people might as well base their political choices on the weather. And, in fact, many of them do."

Posted by Original Andrew | September 13, 2007 12:13 PM

...and you can't bring water into Bumbershoot.

Posted by DOUG. | September 13, 2007 12:16 PM

nothing new to see here. I bet if you went back two hundred years, you would still have morons saying the bill of rights went to far in protecting our freedoms. Don't get your panties in a bunch.

Posted by Rotten666 | September 13, 2007 12:22 PM

hmmmm....a first amendment non-profit produces a study that reveals that...our first amendment is threatened!!

keep those checks coming, folks.

Posted by bing | September 13, 2007 12:26 PM

This is why we have a Bill of Rights. Because the majority doesn't believe people who are different should have the right to be different.

@7 Totally agree with you. It's not the position that matters, it's how it's package and marketed. And the Right is doing such a fantastic job of this. It's thoroughly depressing.

Of course, that whole study about how conservatives and liberals think differently also comes to mind.

Posted by mao | September 13, 2007 12:38 PM

None of these really surprise me -- either people don't care, think journalists (the truth) is evil, or want to elect Jesus as dictator.

This one stood out though...

Nearly half believed musicians should not be “allowed to sing songs with lyrics that others might find offensive.”

Do people really think song lyrics are that big of a problem? What songs are they talking about? WEIRD

Posted by jamier | September 13, 2007 12:38 PM

@20. Even if the trends are somewhat positive, the absolute numbers are still scary. So, if, for example, 10% fewer people think something this year than a few years ago, but 70% of people still believe it, that is still scary to me.

Though, @27, I feel you. It's hard not to be a little suspicious when considering the source of the study.

Posted by Julie | September 13, 2007 12:39 PM

I'm not terribly surprised by these results, nor am I scared, mainly because our system of government is a republic, not a democracy. The Founding Fathers realized that people are fuckwits, and set up our Constitution to ensure that popular passion didn't dictate public policy. I believe so firmly in the republican ideal (not to be confused with Republican "ideals") that I would advocate reversing the popular election of Senators.

Posted by Gitai | September 13, 2007 12:40 PM
I bet if you went back two hundred years, you would still have morons saying the bill of rights went to far in protecting our freedoms.

Your freedoms, maybe. The bill of rights only applied to a small percentage of the population: white men loyal to the "founding fathers" who didn't immigrate from terrorist nations like France.

Posted by jamier | September 13, 2007 12:45 PM

And one in three Seattle residents believe Erica is an objective journalist.

Welcome to America, where not everyone thinks like you, and not everyone believes what you believe.

Posted by Gomez | September 13, 2007 12:49 PM

I think "two-thirds believed people should be barred from protesting in public" is a bit of an exaggeration. The question that I think you're referring to (#16) is on the surface about protesting funerals.

The problem with these surveys is that there's no room for nuance. You can't say something like "people should be allowed to worship freely unless their beliefs include polygamy and statutory rape", etc..

Posted by Laurel | September 13, 2007 1:02 PM

The Stranger pokes big time scorn at demonstrations - over and over - many years, many writers

then wonders, gasp, the role of public protest is not understood "in America" - the role of public protest is not understood at the corner of 11th and Pine in the cream colored building where Erica sits her fanny

Posted by Karla, downtown lady | September 13, 2007 1:07 PM

laurel @ 34 -- Aye. And "two-thirds" is a bit of an exaggeration, considering that 58% is, like, 20% less than "two thirds".

Posted by RonK, Seattle | September 13, 2007 1:34 PM

I'm a dual citizen, and by virtue of that, have a lot more rights. Like privacy, for example. And not being tortured. And other things.

Sad. I remember when Americans had more rights.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 13, 2007 1:35 PM

Gomez @33:
You've been around Slog for a long time -- surely you've noticed the change in Erica's writing over the last year.

I suppose some will never get over her past polemics, and there have certainly been some low points (her posts on the false rape charges at Duke come to mind). But most of her stuff as of late has been quite reasonable, informative, and well-researched.

Posted by Sean | September 13, 2007 1:35 PM

oh, and @18 - they do, most of our genetic studies show that they do.

stop passing on wrong info.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 13, 2007 1:37 PM

@33 I don't believe ECB is objective, but I don't believe that objectivity is humanly possible, nor do I read The Stranger or Slog for objectivity, or any pretense thereof. I read The Stranger because their bias is up front. I don't always agree (Go, Tim Burgess!), but at least I know where they stand.

Posted by Gitai | September 13, 2007 1:49 PM

The 2007 national survey of 1,003 respondents was conducted by telephone between Aug. 16 and Aug. 26.

Who the hell commits to a national survey like this who isn't older than 50 and has time on his or her hands?

This poll was as useful as a Fox News poll. This is just status quo. Nothing new to fear except stupidity as usual.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | September 13, 2007 1:50 PM

# 40 - Gitai

Gov. Gregoire just endorsed David Della.

Rare, rare, rare for a city council race.

Tim Blood Money Burgess's ship is stinking, sinking ...

Posted by Karla, downtown lady | September 13, 2007 2:11 PM

@38 - You mean because she's stopped posting half-assed polemic at quite the rate she once did? Maybe, but the self-righteousness and indifference to non-superficial analysis still comes through here and there.

Posted by tsm | September 13, 2007 2:15 PM

Thanks for posting that Erica.

Posted by K X One | September 13, 2007 2:39 PM

Looks like a poll of the White House staff and their Fuehrer

Posted by elrider | September 13, 2007 3:17 PM

Apparently we need to Constitution to protect us from OURSELVES, not our leaders. Geez.

Posted by Corliss | September 13, 2007 3:18 PM

That's "the" Constitution...

Posted by Corliss | September 13, 2007 3:19 PM

I think more than anything, this shows how poor our public education system is. These aren't the answers of a well-educated populace. Why don't we start fixing this at the root of the problem?

Posted by Andy | September 13, 2007 3:35 PM

Why aren't the survey question posted verbatim? Those answers read like a reinterpretation of the data collected. It's frustrating we're never allowed to interpret the results for ourselves.

For example:
"Only 18 percent believed that public schools should not have explicitly Christian programming in December."

What were these people asked? There's a big difference in calling someone up at dinnertime and asking them a) Should public schools ban Christmas plays? or b) should kids be forced to participate in Christian-themed programming at public schools during December?

Posted by Dougsf | September 13, 2007 4:01 PM

@41: I agree! As much as we talk about statistics, it's important to get a representative sample. Those who respond to telephone surveys are becoming less and less representative of America every year.

I just wrote a bit more about this on my blog:

Posted by Kate | September 13, 2007 4:04 PM

my shrink laughed when i told him american was on the path to fascism, and they'd come after buddhists first.

Posted by maxsolomon | September 13, 2007 4:12 PM

@41 - plus the survey was done when most people other than insane Red Bushies were on vacation.

Plus most polls ignore cell phones.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 13, 2007 4:30 PM

I was interested in the number of folks who think things that "religious groups (or others) might find offensive" should be banned. These are the exact same motherfuckers who get their panties in a bunch when a Christmas tree is removed because it offended someone and start shrieking about political correctness run amok.

Posted by switzerblog | September 13, 2007 5:10 PM

38. I notice that comment is 100% more full of shit than your usual comments.

No. No, she hasn't and no she isn't. She's gotten more biased, fudged and willingly twisted more facts and gotten more obnoxious than she ever has before. She's approaching caricature status.

Posted by Gomez | September 13, 2007 6:12 PM

Re: 24. Thank you for that link, Andrew. That's the second perfect New Yorker article I've run across (this week).

Posted by Amelia | September 13, 2007 6:22 PM

Oh, Please. Why is this so shocking? It's common knowledge that 1/3 of this country is essentially morons. They serve a useful purpose: Spammers, Televangelists, Credit companies and the GOP would not exist without them.

1/3 of the country are the moderates: Those with enough money to fear "socialism" and are superstitious enough to have a religious belief that they at least pay lip service to. They may know better, but they go along to get along.

Then there's the 33% who know the score. They span every income bracket.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | September 13, 2007 10:43 PM

Gomez @54:
Whoa, easy there big fella. The hostility is totally unnecessary.

So, where exactly is the bias in this post? Seems to me she's just passing on information.

Posted by Sean | September 13, 2007 10:52 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).