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Noted With Interest
NOTED WITH INTEREST
The Washington Post - March 3, 2006
NOTED WITH INTEREST

NOTED WITH INTEREST

Friday, March 3, 2006

If life were a university, Americans would do better majoring in popular culture than in history, a survey released this week shows.

The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum poll found that Americans' knowledge of television shows such as "The Simpsons" and "American Idol" far surpasses their familiarity with the First Amendment.

Only one of the 1,000 adults polled in the telephone survey could name all five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment. Yet more than one in five (22 percent) could identify all five major characters in Matt Groening's cartoon family.

Similarly, only 8 people in 100 could name at least three First Amendment freedoms. Four in 10 surveyed (40 percent) could name two of the three judges on the star-making show "American Idol," and one in four (25 percent) could name all three.

"These survey results clearly demonstrate that many Americans don't have an understanding of the freedoms they regularly enjoy," Dave Anderson, the Chicago museum's executive director, said in a written statement.

The new museum, which will open its doors in April, wants to help people understand their constitutional freedoms, especially those protected by the First Amendment. There is a lot of work to do.

Survey respondents wrongly said that the First Amendment guarantees rights to own and raise pets (21 percent), to drive (20 percent) and of women to vote (36 percent). The first two are not rights at all, and women's suffrage was not enshrined in the Constitution until ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Grab your pen. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, the press, and religion, as well as the rights to peacefully assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The survey was conducted Jan. 20-22 by Synovate, a research firm, and had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

-- Christopher Lee


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