The scariest poll you'll see this summer
And it's not about Joe Biden
A majority of Americans - and an overwhelming number of Democrats - no longer support First Amendment protections for free speech.
The government should restrict “false” information online, even if doing so blocks people from “publishing or accessing information,” 55 percent of Americans said in a large poll released Thursday. Only 42 percent disagreed.
The antipathy to free speech represents a sea change in attitudes in just five years. It is driven by a powerful new hostility to First Amendment rights on the left.
In an identically worded poll five years ago, Democrats and Republicans favored free speech online by roughly 3 to 2 margins. Today, Republicans still favor the First Amendment by about that much. But Democrats have turned against it by even more.
(SUPPORT FREE SPEECH… WHILE YOU STILL CAN)
The support for government suppression of “false” speech clearly violates the First Amendment, which does not distinguish between “false” and legal speech, or online or traditional platforms for speech and debate.
The stunning finding comes from a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, a Washington think tank. Pew’s online poll covered over 5,000 adults, and Pew has asked the same question three times in five years; the trend is unmistakable.
(Freedom? We don’t need no stinkin’ freedom!)
(Note that the second part of the poll questioned whether technology and social media companies should also censor. Americans support that private censorship as well, but that is a less radical position. Private companies are generally not subject to the First Amendment unless they are acting at the behest of the government, though companies deemed “common carriers” may have to carry all speech whether they want to or not.)
When Pew split the respondents by political party, the split - and the change in attitudes - was even more striking.
In 2018, Democrats supported free speech by a 57-40 margin, almost identical to the Republican view. They now oppose it by 70-28, a massive shift over the last five years, while Republican views have not changed.
(Maybe we should call it a Cultural Revolution - I feel like I’ve heard that phrase before?)
The poll had almost no good news.
Younger adults favored free speech slightly more than those over 50, but they have shifted against it even faster than older adults in the last five years, probably because they tend to lean to the left.
The poll did not examine the reasons why views have shifted so far so fast. But presumably endless alarmism about the dangers of “misinformation” and “disinformation” by left-leaning media outlets has been a huge factor.
In any case, the poll puts into context the bizarre New York Times article Thursday suggesting that freedom of speech, rather than being a core American right, presents “thorny questions.”
The left - the entire left, readers and writers, consumers and producers of information -is clearly losing confidence in the First Amendment, telling itself a tale of the dangers of too much speech, and trying to wall off opinions and even facts it does not like.
And those of us who hoped the end of Covid and the manifest failure of the mRNAs would spell an end to censorship, or at least a serious rethinking of its pros and cons, appear to have been sadly mistaken.