Are Americans Right About Their Constitutional Rights?
EAGAN, Minn., Sept. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Most Americans can correctly identify most of the basic individual rights contained in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, according to a new survey conducted by the legal Web site FindLaw.com. But Americans also have some mistaken beliefs when it comes to constitutional rights. The national survey was conducted in honor of Constitution Day, the annual celebration that marks the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
More than eight out of 10 Americans can correctly identify that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to free exercise of religion, right to a fair and speedy jury trial in criminal cases and the right to peaceably assemble are rights explicitly granted by the Constitution and its amendments.
However, the survey found that many Americans identified certain rights as being explicitly granted by the Constitution and its amendments when, in fact, they are not. For example, 78 percent of Americans believe that the right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution. Although the Constitution and its amendments contain provisions for the direct election of members of Congress and protections against voting discrimination, there is no explicit or all- encompassing constitutional right to vote.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe the pursuit of happiness is a constitutionally protected right. In fact, it is the Declaration of Independence that discussed certain unalienable rights, including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." However, the pursuit of happiness is neither mentioned nor protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Similarly, 28 percent of Americans believe there is a right to public education in the Constitution, while 12 percent believe there is a constitutional right to housing and a right to health care.
"The survey shows that Americans have a great belief in the power of our Constitution and understand that it remains an important protector of our freedoms," said Arthur Miller, Bruce Bromley Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. "Thus, perhaps they can be forgiven for believing that it guarantees us more than even the authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights intended to cover when they wrote them more than 200 years ago."
The survey was conducted for FindLaw.com by Harris Interactive, using a demographically balanced sample of 1,000 American adults, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.
More information on the U.S. Constitution, including the complete text of the document, commentary by leading legal scholars on constitutional issues, and links to U.S. Constitution resources at the National Archives, Library of Congress and National Constitution Center can be found at http://public.findlaw.com/constitution-day.
The following is the percentage of American adults who correctly identified rights that are contained in the Constitution and its amendments:
93% Freedom of speech 89% Right to free expression of religion 86% Freedom of press 83% Right to fair and speedy jury trial in criminal cases 83% Freedom of assembly
The percentage of American adults who believe the following rights are contained in the Constitution and its amendments:
78% Right to vote 64% Right to pursuit of happiness 28% Right to public education 12% Right to housing 12% Right to health care
CONTACT: Leonard Lee for FindLaw.com , +1-612-670-3445, firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: http://www.findlaw.com/