Monday, May 16, 2005

Survey: Press, public differ on 1st Amendment

Only 14 percent of Americans and 57 percent of newspaper and TV journalists can name “freedom of the press” as a right that is guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to a University of Connecticut study released today.

When asked to identify the specific rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, “freedom of speech” is cited most frequently (58 percent) by Americans, followed by freedom of religion (16 percent). The right to peaceably assemble (10 percent), and the right to petition government for a redress of grievances (1 percent) are even less identifiable than free press.

Since UConn last conducted this survey in 1997,there has been an increase in the perceived importance of First Amendment rights. Eighty percent of Americans now say that freedom of speech is an essential right, up from 72 percent in 1997. The perceived importance of freedom of the press also spiked from 60 percent in 1997 to 70 percent today.

Other key findings:
  • Forty-three percent of Americans think the press has too much freedom in our society, while only 3 percent of journalists think so.
  • While only 14 percent of journalists think that a news story relying on unnamed sources should not be published, 53 percent of American adults think that way.
  • The majority of both journalists (74 percent) and the public (89 percent) agree that one should question the accuracy of news stories that rely on unnamed sources.
  • Majorities of both journalists (89 percent) and the public (59 percent) say that reporters should keep secret the identity of a source even when ordered by a court to disclose the source.
  • Shield laws are favored by 87 percent of journalists.
  • On a somewhat scary note, 22 percent of Americans believe the government should be able to censor newspapers.
  • Eighty-five percent of journalists think that bloggers should have the same First Amendment protections as those afforded to newspapers and books.
  • In somewhat contradictory findings, journalists report having low regard for news coverage provided in blogs -- only 11 percent rate blogs' news as excellent or good -- yet 83 percent of journalists report having used blogs themselves, with 40 percent saying they use them at least once a week.
According to this announcement, the survey is being released today as part of a forum on the future of the First Amendment sponsored by UConn and the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association.

Read more: Mark Jurkowitz, Boston Globe.

No comments: