Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of monthly “Freedom Index” polls conducted exclusively for WND by the public opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
WASHINGTON – Nearly half of all adults in America believe there has been a decrease in personal freedom under the Obama administration, which signals a significant degree of alarm across a wide swath of the population, the WND “Freedom Index” Poll finds.
Significant percentages of Americans see their personal freedom diminishing under President Obama and even fear speaking their minds, expressing their political and religious views and freely associating with others because of potential retribution by government, the scientific survey conducted by Wenzel Strategies found.
The poll was conducted June 6–10 using an automated telephone technology calling a random sampling of listed telephone numbers nationwide. It included 22 questions and carries a 95 percent confidence interval. The survey included 790 adult respondents. It carries a margin of error of +/– 3.5 percentage points.
One of the purposes of the survey, part of a series of monthly polls, is to create a new “Freedom Index” from the data – one that can be updated monthly to track changes in American attitudes about personal liberties. The initial ranking, as a result of the first survey, puts the “Freedom Index” at 57.6 on a 100–point scale. This index can be interpreted as meaning that Americans believe they and their countrymen enjoy a little over half of the liberties promised in the U.S. Constitution. Not all constitutional freedoms were tested, so this is not an exhaustive measurement of how people feel the Constitution is holding up today, but rather is meant as an indicator of some major themes on the subject of liberty.
In addition, the survey found profound, bi-partisan alarm among Americans over the use of data-collecting technology by government – with 41 percent characterizing the use of cameras, scanners and electronic health records as “very intrusive,” while only 11.4 percent said they were “not very intrusive.”
Overall, 37 percent of respondents to the scientific survey said they saw big decreases in personal freedom under Obama, while 31 percent said they perceive a big increase. Democrats, by 54.7 percent, said they saw a big increase in freedom, while 60 percent of Republicans said they saw a big decrease.
Among independents, 40.4 percent see a big decrease in personal freedom, while 22.4 see a big increase.
There was also a significant racial split in the results, with 56.4 percent of African-Americans seeing a big increase in personal freedom and 42.5 percent of whites seeing a big decrease.
Can Americans speak their minds without fear of punishment, penalty or retribution?
Nearly one-quarter surveyed believe there is a great deal of fear, while 27.8 percent believe there is none. Among Democrats, 43 percent believed there is no fear, while 32.2 percent of Republicans believed there is a great deal.
More than a third of those polled – 37 percent – said they believe there has already been a “big decrease” in freedoms under Obama, whose administration is just five months old. But the survey also found that there is great unease in the government’s use of technology. More than half – 55 percent – said the government’s use of cameras, scanners and electronic health records have become too intrusive into the lives of Americans, including 41 percent who said government is now “very intrusive.”
“These twin findings – that nearly half think the Obama administration has reduced freedoms and that a notable majority think government is using technology to intrude into the lives of citizens – paint a picture of a nation on edge over what might come next,” said Fritz Wenzel, director of the survey.
It is important to note that 41 percent said that they have seen a significant increase in personal freedoms under Obama, with respondents in the western United States expressing the most enthusiasm. Overall, 15 percent were neutral on the question of Obama’s impact on personal freedom.
The nation is clearly divided along racial lines on the question of Obama’s impact on personal freedom, as two out of three African Americans say there has been an increase but just one out of three whites saying the same thing. A majority of whites – 52 percent – said they have seen a decrease in freedoms, and 26 percent of blacks agreed. Almost half of Hispanics said there has been a “big decrease” in freedoms under Obama.
The survey found several other instances in which notable percentages felt afraid to publicly express their true feelings about politics or religion. More than one–third (34 percent) said they believe Americans in general feel fearful of punishment or retribution if they express their minds freely. Asked specifically if they themselves felt fear of harm, retribution, or government investigation for expressing their true feelings publicly, 32 percent said they did. Another 28 percent said they “self–censor” before speaking in public.
Just as alarming are the findings on freedoms of association and worship. One in three said they believe Americans are fearful of punishment or retribution over the people with whom they associate, with 21 percent saying there is “great fear.” Older respondents were more likely than younger ones to sense that fear, as 40 percent of those over age 60 said there is fear of harm or retribution over associations.
One in four said Americans today cannot worship in the manner they choose without fear they will be punished, ostracized, investigated, or face some other penalty, while 42 percent said they believed there is no such fear across the country. Another 17 percent said there might be a little fear, and yet another 17 percent were neutral on the question.
“That so many see such fear in the common exercise of basic rights makes one wonder at what has happened in the nation known worldwide as the land of the free,” said Wenzel. “A nexus of government activism, technological invasions of privacy and political correctness run amok has clearly spooked America.”
Fritz Wenzel is president of Wenzel Strategies a public opinion research and media consulting company. Formerly associated with Zogby International, he spent 25 years as a news and political reporter for major metro dailies.
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?
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