What is the current state of the First Amendment?

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines …


Name one right the First Amendment guarantees …

Hopefully, you did better than many of the respondents in the recent Freedom Forum Institutes’s “State of the First Amendment” survey.

Would you believe 40 percent of more than 1,000 people surveyed couldn’t come up with one of them?

Oh my, that’s not good for democracy, is it?

Most of the people (36 percent) could only name one of the rights.

Freedom of speech was the most commonly recalled at 56 percent.

Of the others, freedom of religion was second at 15 percent, freedom of the press 13 percent, right to assembly (12 percent) and the right to petition (2 percent).

There were a number of erroneous responses, too.

At 9 percent, the right to bear arms was the most common mistaken response.

Two percent erred in stating the right to vote.

Here is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Freedom Forum, a programming and education partner to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., has been conducting the study annually since 1997,

The Fors Marsh Group conducted the survey in May and June. The average age of the respondents was 48. The findings said 22 percent identified as Republicans, 31 percent as Democrats and 40 percent as independents.

Once gaining a better understanding of the First Amendment, the respondents were asked whether it goes too far with its reach — 23 percent said yes.

The answers, of course, are a great worry to those of us who support and defend it.

For a newspaper editor, another of the most troubling spots in the study was that only 74 percent of the respondents said it was important for our democracy to have the news media act as a watchdog on government.

At the Delaware State News, we understand that most citizens do not have the time to keep an eye on their public officials or agencies at work. We should carry out our “watchdog” role as humble representatives of the public, always maintaining courtesy and our reputation for purposeful neutrality.


When it comes to social media, the survey found that false information was a bigger worry than hate speech and personal attacks.

“A majority of the respondents agreed that social media companies should remove all of these types of posts,” the report said. “However, it is interesting to note that false information rises above the other two types of content.”

The study found that 72 percent of respondents said social media companies should remove hate speech, 83 percent said they should remove false information, and 68 percent said they should remove personal attacks.

Whether government should step in and monitor and require social media sites to act is question that seems to greatly divisive.

The survey said 27 percent strongly agreed, 29 percent strongly disagreed.

“Americans are more likely to view social media regulation as a responsibility of the social media companies themselves, rather than the government,” the study said.


The Delaware State News is committed to the ideals of the First Amendment. At the core is our opinion pages, which belong to our readers.

Our role is to facilitate the community’s discussion of public issues, draw people out, make sure the discussion is as open and vigorous as possible, and keep it within the bounds of fair play.

We welcome letters to the editor, especially those that center on timely local issues. Email to newsroom@newszap.com.

We also encourage readers to comment on our stories at delawarestatenews.net and take part in a vigorous and civil discussion. Some of the comments are selected daily for use in our “Sound Off Delaware” feature.


You’ll want to read the Delaware State News on Wednesday when we’ll have coverage of the final report on the Department of Correction’s review of the prisons following the Feb. 1-2, 2017, uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

Delaware Gov. John Carney, Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps and Special Assistant Claire DeMatteis will be discussing progress on prison security and safety.

Lt. Steven Floyd, an officer in the prison, was killed in the overnight hostage situation. In all, four officers and a counselor were taken hostage,


Some of the hash-tagging on social media Friday had this editor puzzled.

July 13 suddenly has become #nationaldelawareday. Hmm.

It appears to have originated at nationalcalendarday.com which decided last year to honor states in the order in which they entered the Union. Delaware, of course, was first.

Let’s hope no one forgets the real Delaware Day — Dec. 7.

Our flag even says so, but the calendar people may not have noticed since that portion was cropped out of the image on their website.

By the way, July 13, according to these calendar folks, is also National Beans ‘N’ Franks Day and National French Fry Day.

Facebook Comment