The Newseum Institute is out with some stunning information from its annual “State of the First Amendment” study. In asking Americans for their views on the First Amendment, the survey found that more than one-third (34 percent) of citizens believe that it goes too far in the rights that if affords.

The results are even more surprising when considering that the proportion is up significantly from last year’s results (only 13 percent of the country said the same). This, according to a press release put out by the Newseum Institute, is the largest single-year increase since the study first began in 1997.

A Newseum Institute Study: Shocking Proportion of Americans Believe the First Amendment Provides Too Much Liberty

Photo Credit: AP

The results were seen as troubling by Ken Paulson, who is the president of the First Amendment Center and who is also the dean of the Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication.

“It’s unsettling to see a third of Americans view the First Amendment as providing too much liberty,” he said. “This underscores the need for more First Amendment education. If we truly understand the essential role of these freedoms in a democracy, we’re more likely to protect them.”

While the results are certainly shocking, the proportion does seem to jump around quite a bit. A table shows that it was at 49 percent in 2002 and that the number has also been in the 20s, 30s and teens in the past as well:

A Newseum Institute Study: Shocking Proportion of Americans Believe the First Amendment Provides Too Much Liberty

Photo Credit: Newseum/First Amendment Center

The study also examined the most important perceived freedoms; the most cited was the freedom of speech (47 percent). Following this came the freedom of religion (10 percent), choice (seven percent), the right to bear arms and the right to vote (both of these at five percent).

It’s unclear what freedom of “choice” refers to specifically.

The survey included interviews with 1,006 Americans and has a sampling error of +/- 3.2% at the 95% level. You can read all of the results here.

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