A Scary Number Of Americans Don’t Think Muslims Or Atheists Have Constitutional Rights

Nearly a quarter of Americans ― 22 percent ― either don’t know or don’t believe that U.S. Muslims are granted the same constitutional protections as other citizens. Roughly 20 percent don’t know or don’t think that atheists are protected under the Constitution.

These are among the findings of a new study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, released ahead of the Sept. 17 Constitution Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the U.S. Constitution’s signing in 1787.

The survey asked respondents whether they thought it was accurate to say that U.S. citizens who are Muslims have the same rights as all other citizens. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed said it was very accurate or somewhat accurate, while 18 percent said it was very or somewhat inaccurate. Four percent said they didn’t know.

On the same question about U.S. atheists, 79 percent said it was very accurate or somewhat accurate, and 15 percent said it was very or somewhat inaccurate. Five percent said they didn’t know.

The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey polled 1,013 U.S. adults about the government, the First Amendment and constitutional protections. This year marked the first time the survey included the questions about Muslims and atheists. The survey didn’t ask respondents about their knowledge of protections granted to Christians or other religious groups.

But it isn’t just the constitutional rights of Muslims and atheists that Americans are unclear on. Many Americans are highly misinformed about basic constitutional provisions, including what the First Amendment protects and even how the U.S. government is organized.

Fifty-three percent of Americans incorrectly think that undocumented immigrants aren’t afforded rights under the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled on that issue in the 1886 decision, Yick Wo v. Hopkins, declaring that noncitizens were included in the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Just 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government ― down considerably from 38 percent in 2011, when APPC first included this question on the survey.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents were unable to name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. Just under half of those surveyed named freedom of speech as a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

But far fewer could name the other First Amendment rights. Fifteen percent of respondents named freedom of religion;…

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