Editor’s note: This is another in a series of monthly “Freedom Index” polls conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
While Americans generally took a breather from their increasing worry about losing freedoms under President Obama, Democrats over the last month actually began to express growing alarm as details of his health-care plan started to emerge.
The WND Freedom Index poll from Wenzel Strategies revealed that the index was 47.2 for the month of April, up just a tick from the near-record low of 46.7 in March.
The poll was conducted by telephone April 16-18 using an automated technology calling a random sampling of listed telephone numbers nationwide. It carries a margin of error of 3.29 percentage points.
“On the core question of whether, under the Obama administration, Americans have seen an increase or a decrease in their personal freedoms, a majority of Americans still believe there has been a decrease of freedoms,” Wenzel said in an analysis of the results.
“The last month, however, has seen at least a temporary halt in the downward movement, as 52 percent in this latest survey said the nation has seen a cut in freedoms, compared to 55 percent who said the same thing last month.”
He continued, “However, the percentage of respondents who said they think Obama has presided over an increase in freedoms actually dropped from 33 percent a month ago to 31 percent today.”
Further, Wenzel noted, Democrats have indicated they are becoming alarmed.
“The poll shows Democrats have had a significant change of heart toward the negative in the last 30 days. In March, 68 percent of Democrats said they believed Obama has led to an increase in freedoms, but this month, just 58 percent said the same thing. It’s unclear what has caused this significant erosion in Obama’s political base, but it bears watching in the months to come.”
Wenzel noted some of the details of Obama’s health-care program have begun to emerge this month, “revealing far more restrictions and taxes than first advertised.”
“U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that Congress had to pass a bill to find out what is in it is coming true, and it is coming back to haunt Democrats,” he said.
WND reported just a day earlier about a group of Americans who believe the federal government overstepped its constitutional bounds in passing the health-care legislation. They have begun rallying allies to a bold and controversial initiative: state nullification of the federal law.
“Now that health-care reform has been signed into law, the question people ask most is, ‘What do we do about it?’” said Michael Boldin, founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, in a statement. “The status-quo response includes lobbying Congress, marching on D.C., ‘voting the bums out,’ suing in federal court and more. But the last 100 years have proven that none of these really work, and government continues to grow year in and year out.”
Instead, the center is reaching back into the history books to suggest states take up “nullification,” a controversial measure in which states essentially would say to the federal government, “Not in our borders, you don’t. That law has no effect here.”
The center is partnering with WeRefuse.com to announce release of model nullification legislation for states, called the Federal Health Care Nullification Act, and a call for 100,000 Americans to join a state-by-state petition to prompt legislators into action.
Wenzel also noted that April questions were fielded just after the April 15 tax-filing deadline – which also was a day for tea-party rallies across the country in protest of big government and high taxes.
“As those rallies became the focus of scorn from some media outlets, 62 percent of respondents said they felt that Americans today stand to face at least some retribution or ridicule for choosing to exercise their constitutional freedom to associate with whomever they wish,” Wenzel said.
“One in three respondents said they believe Americans are subject to substantial levels of scorn, ridicule, or even retribution for exercising their freedoms to gather with those who might not be acceptable to other elements of society. Not surprisingly, it is the conservative respondents who feel the most oppressed on this point – as 79 percent said Americans are subject to penalty of some sort based on who they associate with. Liberals were much less likely to see this as a problem – yet still 36 percent of liberals said they do think Americans in general come in for some penalty based on their circle of friends,” Wenzel’s analysis found.
“This sentiment is clearly captured in this polling data. This data is particularly stunning given that it is every American’s constitutional right to associate without fear of penalty or retribution,” he said.
The same poll showed Congress’ approval rating again has plunged to about 12 percent, tying an all-time low.
But it can go even lower, he said.
“As Obama and congressional Democrats now turn their eye to imposing heavy regulations on the national financial industry and the energy industry and on recasting immigration policy – all unpopular initiatives – there is no floor to how low their approval ratings might go.”
The monthly Freedom Index moved a tick upward based on “internal” moves that are beginning to indicate “increased polarization of the American public in the wake of the passage of the divisive health-care bill in Congress and as Americans get a peek at other controversial issues that are likely to be moved to the top of the political agenda this year.”
The index is based on a 100-point scale based on poll-respondent answers to 10
questions that sample different aspects of freedom in America, including freedom of speech, association, worship and assembly. An index rating of 50 is dead even, with ratings above that point signaling positive feelings about freedom in America and ratings below that point signaling negative feelings.
The index reached its lowest point ever – 46.3 – in December and nudged upward in January but then fell for two straight months.
Among the numbers in the poll:
- 42.8 percent of Americans believe there’s been a “big decrease” in freedoms under Obama. Another 9.6 percent see “some decrease.”
- 40.3 percent of Americans believe they are not very or not at all free to speak their minds without fear of punishment.
- More than 33 percent of Americans believe they cannot associate with whom they choose without worrying about being punished or investigated.
- One in five Americans expresses fear over being investigated for the way one worships.
- More than 45 percent believe government is too intrusive.
- More than 21 percent self-censor their thoughts on a given subject because of fear of penalty.
See detailed results of survey questions:
If there were a controversial cause about which you felt strongly, would you be afraid to attend a local rally to voice your opinion because of fear of retribution, penalty, or government investigation?