The First Amendment is the most widely known Amendment in the Bill of Rights, and the most appreciated
In 1787 delegates from the thirteen states convened in Philadelphia to replace the unwieldy Articles of Confederation with a Constitution to endow the federal government with sufficient power to hold the country together. This short document, which was a result of both high idealism and low political horsetrading, has survived a Civil War and the massive expansion of the country to become the oldest constitution in the world. The Constitution itself, however, merely describes the functions of the federal government. It was left to ten Amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, to protect individual freedoms.
YouGov's latest research shows that 41% of Americans say that the First Amendment, summarized as the Amendment which guarantees 'religious freedom and the right to free speech, assembly' is the most important Amendment in the Bill of Rights. 15% then say that the most important is the Second Amendment, which guarantees the 'right to keep and bear arms'. 28% of Americans said that various other Amendments were the most important, with the Ninth Amendment coming in third place (10%). The Ninth Amendment states that individuals have more rights than just those specified in the prior eight Amendments.
Republicans (27%) are much more likely than Democrats (6%) to say that the Second Amendment is the most important. The second most important Amendment for Democrats is the Fourth (8%), which prohibits searches and seizures without a warrant or reasonable cause.
The First Amendment is also the best known. Respondents were presented with a list of brief summaries of each Amendment and were asked to say which Amendment was what. 77% knew that the First Amendment guarantees free speech and religion. 58% also knew that the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to remain silent and due process. The Third Amendment was the least well known, though by 45% to 42% Americans narrowly know that this is the Amendment which ensures the federal government does not force them to house soldiers.
Overall, most Americans (57%) say that the Constitution has held up well, though 28% think that a constitutional convention should be held to update the document. Republicans (68%) and independents (61%) are a lot more happy with the Constitution than Democrats, who only narrowly (43% to 41%) say that the Constitution does not need to be updated.