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Poll Finds Global Support for Free Expression

FILE - A protester is seen holding a placard at a rally in support of press freedom near the headquarters of a media company in Istanbul, Oct. 28, 2015.

People worldwide embrace fundamental democratic values that include free expression, despite a documented global decline in democratic rights in recent years, according to a Pew Research Center survey of respondents in 38 nations.

A majority in nearly all the nations surveyed said it was at least somewhat important to live in a country with free speech, a free press and freedom on the Internet. And across the countries polled, global medians of 50 percent or more considered these freedoms very important, according to the survey.

Still, the survey said, ideas about free expression vary widely.

It noted that the United States stood out for its especially strong opposition to government censorship, as did countries in Latin America, like Argentina and Chile, and in Europe, such as Germany and Spain.

Majorities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East also tended to oppose censorship, albeit with less intensity. Indonesians, Palestinians, Burkinabe and Vietnamese were among the least likely to say free expression is very important, the researchers said.

The survey noted that while free expression was popular around the globe, other democratic rights were more widely embraced. In Western and non-Western nations, throughout the global North and South, majorities said they wanted freedom of religion, gender equality, and honest, competitive elections.

The survey said Americans were among the strongest supporters of such freedoms, while Europeans were especially likely to want gender equality and competitive elections, but somewhat less likely to prioritize religious freedom.

The right to worship freely was most popular in sub-Saharan Africa. Across all regions, people who said religion was very important in their lives were more likely to value religious freedom, according to the Pew poll.