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Monmouth Univ Poll – NATIONAL: Most Say Fundamental Rights Under Threat

Monmouth University Polling Institute

A majority (55%) of Americans are very concerned that their fundamental rights and freedoms are under threat – with Republicans (63%) being somewhat more likely than Democrats (53%) or independents (51%) to feel this way. Another 29% of the general public is somewhat concerned about threats to their rights and about 1 in 6 is either not too (11%) or not at all (5%) concerned.

While both Republicans and Democrats express concern about risks to their freedoms, the specific types of rights they worry about losing are very different. Among Republicans, 38% say their freedom of speech or First Amendment rights are under threat and an identical 38% say the same about their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Other concerns Republicans mention include specific references to freedom of religion (12%) and concerns about government overreach and Fourth Amendment infringements such as illegal search and seizure (6%). Democrats, on the other hand are most concerned with restrictions to abortion access along with other women’s rights (36%). They also mention threats to freedom of speech (14%), voting access and the election process (12%), freedom from gun violence and other safety issues (8%), as well as LGBTQ+ rights (8%).

“One of the interesting things in the survey responses is that Republicans are more likely to use the phrases ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘right to bear arms’ or simply give amendment numbers when describing threats to their fundamental rights. Democrats’ First Amendment worries are more likely to reference specific restrictions such as book banning. Also, Democrats’ top concerns focus on the Constitution’s implied privacy rights such as a woman’s ‘reproductive autonomy’ or societal norms such as keeping their children safe from gun violence,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “It is also worth noting that a small but measurable number of Republicans are concerned about Fourth Amendment infringements. It certainly isn’t good for democracy if there really is widespread abuse of government search and seizure powers. It can be just as destabilizing, though, if people believe this is happening even when it is not. This is how we get events like January 6.”

The poll finds that 3 in 10 Americans (30%) – including two-thirds (68%) of Republicans – believe that Joe Biden only won the presidency because of voter fraud. This result has been a nearly constant percentage in Monmouth’s polling since the November 2020 election. About two-thirds (66%) of the public says the incident at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 is appropriately described as a riot while 35% say it can be called a legitimate protest. Americans are more divided on whether it is (47%) or is not (43%) appropriately described as an insurrection. Democrats and independents have been fairly consistent in their description of these events over the past two years. Republicans, on the other hand, have become less likely to cast the Capitol attack in negative terms. Just 44% of Republicans call it a riot, which is down from 62% in June 2021, and only 15% say it is appropriately described as an insurrection, which is down from 33% two years ago. Just over half of Republicans (51%) describe January 6 as a legitimate protest, which is similar to two years ago (47%).

“You basically start out with a majority of the Republican Party saying there were legitimate gripes about the 2020 election outcome, but two years ago most felt the violence of January 6 was taking things too far, even if it did not rise to the level of an insurrection in their minds. Now, that view has changed, which raises the question of what actions are acceptable when you are unhappy with a political outcome,” said Murray.

Just 42% of Americans feel our system of government is basically sound. This result is down from 50% in September, but similar to prior polls between January 2021 and August 2022, which ranged from 36% to 44%. In polls taken between 2017 and 2020, the portion of the public who said our system is basically sound ranged from 50% to 55%. An Opinion Research poll taken in 1980 put this number at 62%. In the current poll, 29% of Americans say that the system is not at all sound and needs significant changes. Republicans (38%) are more likely than independents (28%) and Democrats (21%) to feel this way.

Just 16% of the public says that Americans are united and in agreement about the most important values while 81% feel we are greatly divided. This marks a numerical high for the view that the country is divided since Monmouth started asking this question in 2016. Prior results for this question ranged from 68% to 78% greatly divided. Just 11% of the public has a great deal of trust and confidence in the American people as a whole when it comes to making judgments under our democratic system and 44% have a fair amount of trust and confidence. This combined level of trust (55% great deal or fair) is slightly lower than in past polls, which ranged from 58% to 64% between 2016 and 2021. Republicans (46%) are significantly less likely than Democrats (65%) to express at least a fair amount of confidence in the American people’s judgement in our democratic system.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from May 18 to 23, 2023 with 981 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.


(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1-9 previously released.]

10. Now, I'm going to read four statements about our American system of government. Listen carefully and then tell me which one is closest to how you feel: our system of government is basically sound and essentially needs no changes, our system is basically sound, but needs some improvement, our system is not too sound and needs many improvements, or our system is not sound at all and needs significant changes?




Basically sound, no changes6%11%9%6%8%7%9%10%7%6%
Basically sound, some improvement36%39%33%30%35%37%46%42%43%56%
Not too sound, many improvements27%26%27%26%26%33%24%26%25%27%
Not sound at all, significant changes29%22%29%36%30%22%21%22%24%10%
(VOL) Don’t know2%2%1%2%1%0%1%1%2%1%

* Source: Opinion Research Corporation

11. More generally, how much trust and confidence do you have in the American people as a whole when it comes to making judgments under our democratic system about the issues facing our country – a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

A great deal11%18%16%13%
A fair amount44%46%42%47%
Not very much31%28%30%29%
None at all11%7%11%9%
(VOL) Don’t know2%1%2%2%

        * Registered voters

12. Which statement comes closer to your view: Americans are united and in agreement about the most important values OR Americans are greatly divided when it comes to the most important values? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

   TREND:May2023Jan.2021Nov.2020Late June2020Sept.2019Nov.2018Dec.2017March2017Aug.2016*
Americans are united16%23%21%18%27%20%23%22%27%
Americans are greatly divided81%75%76%78%68%77%72%75%70%
(VOL) Don’t know3%2%2%4%5%4%5%4%4%

* Registered voters

13. Overall, how concerned are you that your fundamental rights and freedoms as an American are under threat – are you very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not at all concerned?

Very concerned 55%
Somewhat concerned 29%
Not too concerned11%
Not at all concerned5%
(VOL) Don’t know0%

13A. Which of your rights and freedoms are most under threat? [LIST WAS CODED FROM VERBATIM RESPONSES. MULTIPLE RESPONSES ACCEPTED.]

Gun rights, 2nd amendment21%
Control guns5%
Government overreach, privacy, searches, 4th amendment4%
Control borders1%
Women’s rights4%
Abortion, reproductive choice15%
Voting, elections7%
Race equality2%
Economic, financial3%
Education, books3%
Speech, 1st amendment26%
All of them5%
No answer12%
Not concerned (from Q13)16%

14. Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square or do you believe that he only won it due to voter fraud?

Fair and square59%63%64%63%61%62%61%62%65%60%
Due to voter fraud30%29%29%29%32%32%32%32%32%32%
(VOL) Don’t know10%8%7%8%7%5%7%6%3%8%*

          * Includes 2% who said Biden would not be declared the winner.


Turning to the incident at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021…

15. Is it appropriate or not appropriate to describe this incident as a legitimate protest?

Not appropriate61%61%62%63%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%4%4%

16. Is it appropriate or not appropriate to describe this incident as a riot?

Not appropriate29%32%32%24%
(VOL) Don’t know5%3%3%4%

17. Is it appropriate or not appropriate to describe this incident as an insurrection?

Not appropriate43%41%44%35%
(VOL) Don’t know10%7%6%8%

[Q18-29 previously released.]

[Q30-37 held for future release.]


The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from May 18 to 23, 2023 with a probability-based national random sample of 981 adults age 18 and older. Interviews were conducted in English, and included 352 live landline telephone interviews, 512 live cell phone interviews, and 117 online surveys via a cell phone text invitation. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n= 669), Aristotle (list, n= 140) and a panel of prior Monmouth poll participants (n= 172). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2021 one-year survey). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points adjusted for sample design effects (1.79). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

26% Republican
44% Independent
30% Democrat
49% Male
51% Female
29% 18-34
33% 35-54
38% 55+
61% White
13% Black
18% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
67% No degree
33% 4 year degree
unweighted  samplemoe(+/-)
TOTAL 9815.6%
SELF-REPORTED PARTY IDRepublican26010.9%
RACEWhite, non-Hispanic7116.6%
COLLEGE GRADUATENo degree4548.2%
4 year degree5257.7%
WHITE COLLEGEWhite, no degree3349.6%
White, 4 year degree3779.0%
$50 to <$100K26410.8%

Crosstabs may be found in the PDF file on the report webpage:

I’ve had my dream job of waking up with all the great listeners and members of Brookdale Public Radio since January 3, 2005. Prior to this job, I began my career in radio at NJ 101.5 FM as a producer. From there, I took time off from radio to do other things. (including becoming a mom!)