Hopeless

Americans know more about "The Simpsons" than the First Amendment.


Tim Grieve
March 1, 2006 9:54PM (UTC)

Sports Illustrated has a weekly feature in which it identifies a "Sign that the Apocalypse is Upon Us." We can't have one of those here in War Room -- it would be stealing, and we'd never be able to limit ourselves to just one sign a week, anyway.

Take this week. Please.

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We thought surely we saw the sign of the fiery end when we checked out the results of a poll of U.S. troops serving in Iraq: Eighty-five percent of them, apparently, believe that a major reason for the U.S. mission there is "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks."

But when it comes to predictors of our untimely demise, the poll of U.S. troops just might have to take a back seat to a new poll of the good folks back home. The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum conducted a random poll of 1,000 American adults to test their knowledge of the First Amendment. The thingy at the beginning of the Bill of Rights? The one that talks about free speech and stuff? The good news is, 69 percent of the respondents knew that much.

What else does the First Amendment protect?

Unprompted, 24 percent of the respondents managed to say freedom of religion. Eleven percent said freedom of the press -- the same percentage that claimed, incorrectly, that the First Amendment protects the right to bear arms. Ten percent got freedom of assembly, and a whopping 1 percent managed to remember the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Truth be told, that one always gets us, too.

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But it's not like Americans are ignorami or anything: While only 28 percent of those polled could name two or more rights protected by the First Amendment, 41 percent could name two out of three "American Idol" judges, and 52 percent could name two or more characters from "The Simpsons."

Aside from the end-of-the-world aspect of it all, we're not sure what it all means -- except that maybe Democrats who hope to win back the White House ought to spend a little less time on the separation of powers and the unitary executive and a little more on power ballads and fart jokes.

It's the doughnuts, stupid.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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