Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Poll: How citizens feel about Constitutional changes and privacy

September 28, 2012 by Donald Applestein Esq.


Is the Constitution an enduring document or irrelevant in today’s world? The latest AP-National Constitution Center poll shows concerns some Americans have about constitutional issues.

During the third week in August, we polled of over 1,000 Americans to learn their thoughts and attitudes about the Constitution, the government and their constitutional rights.

They were also polled about how they thought the government was doing in protecting those rights.

Nearly three quarters of the people (69 percent) felt that the Constitution was enduring and relevant, while 28 percent of the people felt that it needed to be brought up to date.

Another key question was about how the Supreme Court should interpret laws.

Over half (56 percent) said that laws should be interpreted broadly, while 38 percent said they should be narrowly interpreted.

Most Americans agreed on the protection of “freedom of speech.”

About 71 percent thought that speech should be protected, even if it was deeply offensive. And 26 percent felt that deeply offensive speech should be prohibited.

But some people have concerns about the ability of Congress and the Court to protect other freedoms.

While 70 percent thought institutions did a good job protecting Freedom of Speech, and 76 percent thought the right to vote was protected, only 53 percent thought the Second Amendment—the right to bear arms—was well protected, while just 47 percent thought the right to privacy was protected.

Another contentious issue was the ability of the legal system to protect racial minorities.

There was an even split of opinion on that topic.  About 47 percent felt that these laws are still necessary, while 48 percent responded that these laws were no longer necessary.

And the debate on laws limiting gun ownership was split. About 49 percent felt that such laws did infringe on those rights, while 43 percent responded that the laws did not infringe upon those rights.

Potential threats to the right to privacy were another hot topic. The biggest perceived privacy threat, at 37 percent, were social networking

Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, followed by Unmanned Drones at 35 percent, electronic banking at 30 percent, GPS/smartphone tracking at 27 percent and roadside and/or red-light cameras at 27 percent.

Regarding the use of drones by domestic police departments, 44 percent favored their use, while 36 percent opposed the use of drones and 17 percent were undecided.

What is the one take-away from the survey?  In many areas, there are sharp differences of opinion which may partially explain the polarization in our current politics.

Donald Applestein is a retired attorney and an experience guide in the National Constitution Center’s Public Programs Department.

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