Survey backs student free expression

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
  • Full survey report
  • WASHINGTON — In a survey released today by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, a growing majority of Americans say high school journalists should be free to explore controversial subjects without prior approval, but 38 percent say the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees, up 25 percent from the 2012 survey.

    The survey, commissioned by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, has been conducted since 1997 to determine public knowledge and opinion about the First Amendment and related issues. The results were released today at a luncheon for high school students attending the 2014 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference.

    “It’s valuable to know the five freedoms of the First Amendment — religion, speech, press, assembly and petition — but it’s even more important to know how we can use them,” said Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute. “As a nation, we must better prepare our fellow and future citizens for the hard decision of defending core freedoms against those who would damage or limit them by violence or by law.”

    In this year’s survey, conducted in May 2014, 68 percent said they agreed that public high school journalists should not need prior approval to explore controversial subjects, while 27 percent disagreed. In 2001, 58 percent said prior approval should be required, while 40 percent opposed the need to get approval in advance.

    A new question on the survey this year asked if someone who makes a defamatory comment on social media should be subject to the same legal consequences as someone who makes a similar comment on television or in print. Sixty-nine percent of Americans said the consequences should be the same.

    Also new in 2014, the survey asked respondents what qualifies someone to be a “journalist.” Thirty-six percent said a journalist is someone who creates stories based on objective fact; 21 percent said a journalist is someone who works for an established news operation, 16 percent believe it is when an individual reports to an audience, and 14 percent of Americans said someone is a journalist when that person is paid to gather news.

    Complete survey results are available at and

    About the Newseum
    The mission of the Newseum is to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment through education, information and entertainment. One of the top attractions in Washington, D.C., the Newseum’s 250,000-square-foot news museum offers visitors a state-of-the-art experience that blends news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits. The Newseum Institute serves as a forum for First Amendment study, exploration and education. The Newseum is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including the Freedom Forum. For more information, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    NOTE TO EDITORS: First Amendment Center experts are available today to discuss the survey findings and other issues relating to religious liberty and free expression. Contact Jonathan Thompson at For questions about the methodology of the survey, contact Dr. Kenneth Dautrich at or 860/604-4305.

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