In every generation, young people exercise their First Amendment freedoms in new ways to pursue a brighter future. As Gen Z grows, they are firming up their knowledge and understanding of the First Amendment in ways that are both similar and different from older Americans.
In our Where America Stands survey, members of Gen Z shared what the First Amendment means to them and how they use it in their everyday lives.
Here are the top five things to know about Gen Z respondents and the First Amendment.
1. Gen Z thinks the First Amendment gets it right.
While it’s more than 230 years old, the First Amendment resonates most with young adults. More than any other age group, the youngest Americans don’t think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.
2. Gen Z knows the five freedoms best.
When it comes to naming the individual freedoms the First Amendment protects, Gen Z performed better than every other generation. While assembly and petition proved hard to recall across the board, they could name the freedoms of religion, speech and press without help at higher rates than the average American.
3. Gen Z is worried about sharing their opinions.
Two-thirds of Gen Zers say they’ve kept their thoughts to themselves because they were worried about being punished for what they said. That’s well above the overall average. The way society reacts to speech today is having a chilling effect on the youngest generation.
4. Gen Z isn’t sold on the press being a watchdog.
Between the loss of local media and the rise in social media, the press doesn’t have the same impact that it did decades ago. That is reflected in how the youngest generation sees the media’s role. While a declining majority of Americans still think the press plays an important role in keeping the government accountable, almost two-thirds of young people disagree.
5. Gen Z isn’t big on reaching out directly to elected officials.
Most Americans say they’ve never contacted a representative about changing a law or policy position. Gen Z is the least likely to have done so. That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the freedom of petition, though. Almost half of Gen Z said they had signed a petition in the previous three months, far more than the 30 percent overall average.
Learn more about what Americans know and believe about the First Amendment at WhereAmericaStands.org.
Tristiaña Hinton is senior content producer for the Freedom Forum.