A majority of Americans are alarmed over attempts by the White House to stifle dissent or suppress free speech, according to a new poll that asked about a series of issues ranging from President Obama’s attempt to cut Fox News out of an interview opportunity to his advocacy for “hate crimes” legislation that could hinder Christian pastors’ sermons.
The new poll from Zogby International–O’Leary Report reveals a clear majority of Americans view recent actions by Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress as “threats to our First Amendment Rights.”
“Independents, Hispanics and small-business owners are among the key voting blocs that disagree with the president’s moves to curtail free speech,” the summary of the poll results said.
The poll surveyed 3,544 American voters Oct. 23-26 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 1.7 percent points. It broke down the issue of freedom of speech into about half a dozen questions on specific developments that have been reported.
Obama’s war on Fox News
The first question related to a recent attempt by the White House to exclude Fox News from an opportunity to interview one of Obama’s czars on the issue of pay levels for executives at companies that have accepted federal government bailout money.
The poll asked: “The Obama administration recently declared that the White House would treat the Fox News Channel as an ‘opponent,’ and declared that Fox News is not a ‘legitimate news organization.’ Do you agree or disagree that this is an attempt by the Obama administration to silence dissent?”
Fifty-three percent of Americans agree the maneuver is an attempt to silence dissent and only 40 percent disagreed, the poll said.
“Even a plurality of Democrats (48 percent) think Obama and his staff are trying to silence dissent, while 43 percent of Democrats disagree. Fifty percent of independents agree while 43 percent disagree. Majorities of Hispanics (54 percent) and small-business owners (57 percent) also agree,” the poll said.
“Surprisingly, among those who voted for President Obama, 43 percent agree he is attempting to silence dissent and 46 percent disagree.”
Obama supports U.N. resolution
The poll then asked about the Obama administration’s support – with Egypt – of a United Nations resolution that encourages governments worldwide to clamp down on free speech when it is used to criticize certain religions.
The poll asked: “The Obama administration recently supported and helped pass a United Nations resolution that suggests nations exclude certain criticisms of religion from free-speech protection. Do you support or oppose an international law that protects religions from criticism?”
An even stronger majority, 59 percent, “oppose any international law that protects religions from criticism, while only 21 percent support such a law,” the results said.
Strong majorities of independent voters (65 percent), young voters age 18-29 (66 percent), and small-business owners (71 percent) also oppose a law that removes free-speech protections to guard religions from criticism. Fifty-one percent of union members oppose such a law while only 26 percent would support it. Pluralities of both Democratic voters (43 percent) and Obama voters (45 percent) also oppose such a law, while just 30 percent from each group support it, according to the poll results.
Speaker Pelosi silence corporations
The third issue was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reaction to a health-insurance industry report critical of Obama’s health-care takeover proposals. The Democrat-run House Judiciary Committee subsequently passed a bill to revoke the industry’s decades-old antitrust exemption.
The poll asked, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently condemned the health-insurance industry for releasing an unflattering analysis on the Obama administration’s proposal to create a government-run ‘public option’ health-insurance plan. Pelosi also threatened to revoke the industry’s antitrust exemption, which has been in place since 1945. Do you agree or disagree that Pelosi is using the power of Congress to try to limit the free speech of private corporations?”
Fifty-three percent of American voters agreed Pelosi is trying to use the power of Congress to limit the speech of private business interests, with only 39 percent in disagreement, the poll said.
Fifty-five percent of independent voters, 52 percent of Hispanic voters, 51 percent of union voters and 58 percent of small-business owners agreed, the poll said.
Obama’s ‘diversity czar’
The next subject addressed was a proposal by Obama’s “diversity czar” Mark Lloyd concerning what the federal government should require of private broadcast companies.
Lloyd, at a 2005 conference, said, “There’s nothing more difficult than this. Because we have really, truly good white people in important positions. And the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions. And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions we will not change the problem. We’re in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power.”
The poll asked: “Federal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd wants the FCC to force good white people in positions of power in the broadcast industry to step down to make room for more African-Americans and gays to fill those positions. Do you agree or disagree that this presents a threat to free speech?”
More than half of Americans, 51 percent, agreed, and only 31 percent disagreed.
“A strong majority of independents (61 percent) agree that it’s a threat, as do majorities of young voters age 18-29 (54 percent) and small-business owners (59 percent),” the report said.
Obama campaign’s attempt to control media
Next on the poll was a reference to Obama Communications Director Anita Dunn, who recently explained how, during the presidential campaign, Obama’s strategy was to speak through video and other messages “without having to actually talk to reporters.”
The question was: “Recently, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn revealed that during the presidential campaign, President Obama’s strategy was to limit his actual exposure to the press by only communicating through pretaped videos and press releases. According to Dunn, ‘Very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control.’ Do you think the Obama campaign’s strategy is good or bad for free speech?”
Fifty-two percent of American voters believe that is bad for free speech, while only 20 percent believe it is good.
Among independents, 54 percent say it’s bad and 63 percent of small-business owners said it was bad.
House passes hate-crimes bill
Last came a question about a “hate crime” measure that was added to a defense-appropriations bill and approved by Congress. It’s awaiting Obama’s signature, and critics say it threatens to criminalize certain speech directed at special classes of citizens.
The question: “The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a ‘hate crimes’ bill that would make assault based on sexual orientation or perceived gender identity a felony. As it is currently written, the bill would also allow the prosecution of people whose speech allegedly influences others to commit hate crimes. Some experts believe this could lead to serious infringements on free speech, as well as the prosecution of religious preachers, talk-show hosts or political activists who speak against homosexuality or transsexuals. Others say the bill is an effort to try and stop people from committing such crimes in the future. Do you agree or disagree with the ‘hate crimes’ bill?”
A plurality of 47 percent of Americans disagree with the bill, while only 38 percent agree with it, the poll said. A majority of independent voters (55 percent) disagree with the bill, and just 29 percent agree with it. Fifty-eight percent of small-business owners disagree with the hate-crimes bill, while only 30 percent agree with the bill.
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