America series: What does ‘freedom’ mean to you?

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“Freedom.” That’s the answer Daniel gave to the question: What does America mean to you? Daniel, along with his wife, Shauna, run one of the last family dairy-and-crop farms in Genesee County, Michigan. David and Benjamin Crumm asked Daniel this question in the very first interview they conducted at the start of their 40-day circumlocution of our nation. (You also can follow the Crumms’ America Journey day-by-day at the Detroit Free Press.)

Just what does “freedom” mean? I wanted to know, so I asked questions about it in my national surveys of American values.

Here are two items from my March survey. To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of these statements? “Freedom is being left alone to do what I want.” “Freedom is being able to express unpopular ideas without fearing for my safety.” If you agree with the first one, you’re among the minority in America. Only about a third of Americans agree that freedom is being left along to do what they want. There is no difference between conservatives and liberals when it comes to this definition of freedom. If you agree with the second statement, however, you are in the clear majority. Over 90% of Americans agree that freedom is being able to express unpopular ideas without fearing for their safety. And, there is no difference between liberals and conservatives for this definition: the vast majority on both sides agree with it.

I am encouraged by this high level of agreement for this definition of freedom.

Are you?

What does freedom mean to you?

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