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Tuesday, July 25, 2000


Only half would vote for Constitution
Poll: 22% of Americans against founding document, 27% not sure

by Jon E. Dougherty

 
In a finding that shocked some observers, a new poll says that barely half of Americans - just 51 percent - would vote for passage of the U.S. Constitution if the same document approved over two centuries ago were presented in ballot form today.

The survey, conducted by Portrait of America and released Tuesday, said 22 percent of respondents would vote against the Constitution while another 27 percent said they were not sure whether they would support it.

POA pollsters said Tuesday's results did not differ significantly from a similar poll conducted by the polling firm a year ago.

That survey, conducted in June 1999, showed slightly less support for the Constitution. Then, only 49.5 percent of respondents said they would support the Constitution if a referendum were held. Twenty-three percent said they would vote against it while the same number - 27 percent - said they weren't sure.

"The lack of support for the Constitution probably stems from the high levels of public disgust with government and politics today," said Scott Rasmussen, President of Rasmussen Research, last June. "Recent surveys have found that 72 percent of Americans now view the federal government as a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Only one-out-of-four Americans believe their own representative in Congress is the best person for the job. Less than 40 percent think the government today reflects the will of the people," he added.

In Tuesday's survey, only 35 percent of respondents said the federal government operates under the Constitution, while an additional 48 percent said Washington, D.C., routinely flouts its constitutional limitations.

"Although a majority, 56 percent, believe the Constitution is the best way to run our country," the new poll said, "37 percent feel it needs to be updated to reflect major societal changes of the past 200 years." Portrait of America said women and younger adults were more inclined to support constitutional revisions, while men and older Americans were more likely to support the Constitution as-is.

In other results:

  • 51 percent of the country says Congress should pay for 100,000 additional teachers in local school systems, even though the Constitution does not authorize the government to provide such funding;

  • Only 36 percent believe Congress should follow the Constitution;

  • 54 percent choose to support the Constitution and its restrictions rather than a congressional override when asked about government funding for the arts;

  • 53 percent of younger adults and 45 percent of women prefer to support art funding even if it is not authorized by the Constitution;

  • 81 percent of respondents said First Amendment protections of freedom of speech are generally good for the country while 7 percent disagree;

  • 64 percent said if they could modify the Constitution they would give less power to Congress while 12 percent said they would grant Congress more power.

Also in the poll, POA said 63 percent of respondents believe Congress is using the Constitution as an excuse to ban school prayer; only a fourth of the population think lawmakers and political leaders really believe the Constitution bans such prayers.

Thirty-five percent said dropping the Second Amendment from the Constitution and making personal firearms ownership unlawful would make the U.S. a safer country, while 42 percent said the nation would become more dangerous. Another 16 percent said eliminating the Second Amendment would have no impact on safety.


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