Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

Today is a national holiday commemorating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In order to recognize the holiday, BenitoLink is sharing recent research on the topic of freedom of speech. As a nonprofit source of news and information for the county, freedom of speech is an integral part of BenitoLink’s purpose; to provide a place where civil discussion of varying opinions and ideas can occur.

The following quote was found on the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University website. The MTSU wrote, “In his final speech before his assassination in April 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this:”

 “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’

“If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there.

“But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”


On this Martin Luther King Day, BenitoLink is publishing recent data that relates to free speech and current national attitudes on when freedom of speech laws should be protected and when they should be controlled. This report was recently shared with BenitoLink in a newsletter from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

For a 2021 report, Knight Foundation commissioned a survey with a “nationally representative sample of more than 4,000 American adults, including an additional sample of 1,000 undergraduate college students.”

“The Knight Foundation-IPSOS study provides a comprehensive look at American attitudes toward freedom of speech in a post-2020 environment,” the report said. The surveys build on the Knight Foundation’s free speech research which started in 2004.


Most Americans think that Freedom of Speech is very important. From the Knight Foundation-Ipsos Study

Survey questions explores how different groups respond to comments. From Knight Foundation-Ipsos study.




Results from Knight Foundation-Ipsos survey question asking if the government should prohibit sharing personal political views offensive to some?



Public lack of trust in major institutions in the country. Info taken from Knight Foundation-Ipsos study.



The graphs presented in this article cannot capture the full data from this dataset but to see more on the study go here.

Gallup/Knight Foundation released a study in 2019 that said more Americans trust their local news organization than national news outlets.

The study said 79% of Americans trust local news for coverage that’s applicable to their daily life compared to just 19% who say national news offers the same information.

About two-thirds of Americans trust a local outlet to report without bias compared to less than one-third who trust a national outlet to do the same.

Knight Foundation said, “Americans also feel that several topics warrant more attention from local news sources: Areas needing additional coverage include drug addiction (65%); K-12 education (64%), the environment (64%), and plans for public works projects (64 %).

The 2019 report mentioned another area were local news could improve was accountability reporting. The Knight Foundation wrote, “Americans are not fully persuaded that local news is holding powerful people and institutions accountable: 60% feel local news only does a “fair” or “poor” job of accountability reporting.