Editor's note: This is another in a series of "Freedom Index" polls conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
The WND Freedom Index has taken a nosedive, with more than two in three Americans – including significant numbers of Democrats – expressing alarm that Barack Obama's tenure in office is costing them their freedoms, and pollster Fritz Wenzel says it might be too late for him recover in time for the 2012 election.
Noting that the Freedom Index plunged to 45.9, its lowest mark in the two years it's been monitored, Wenzel of Wenzel Strategies said:
"It will be very difficult to dramatically improve these now negative perceptions that Americans hold toward their government because with every downward movement in this index, people lose just a little more trust in their government. It is hard to see anything on the horizon that government leaders – especially President Obama – can use to rebuild that bond, especially before November 2012."
His poll, conducted by telephone June 16-19, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.85 percentage points.
It found that the Freedom Index fell to 45.9, down from 46.6 just one quarter ago, and a stunning 11-plus full points below its inaugural assessment in June 2009.
The fall was precipitated, Wenzel said, by two key issues – concern over the loss of freedoms and the worry over the government's use of technology to invade citizens' lives.
"On two of the 10 questions in the survey – one regarding the increase or decrease in personal freedoms under the Obama administration and the other regarding government intrusion into personal lives – public opinion is markedly lower than on other questions," he said.
"The question about personal freedoms under Obama carries a current rating of 35 on a 100-point scale, which represents a dramatic perception that the Obama administration is destroying personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. This widely held perception – 68 percent said they have seen a loss of freedom under Obama – undercuts whatever else the administration is trying to accomplish because it indicates many Americans believe their government is working against them," Wenzel said.
"The survey shows men are much more concerned about this than are women, as 67 percent of men said they believe Obama has taken away freedoms."
He continued, "The second question on which public opinion is particularly negative is one regarding government’s use of technology – everything from electronic medical records to red light traffic cameras – to intrude into the private lives of Americans. Respondents give this individual question a rating of 29.7 on a 100-point scale. This indicates there is great negativity about government's use of technology to invade the everyday lives of Americans."
The index is based on a 100-point scale that uses poll respondent answers to 10 questions regarding different aspects of freedom in America, including freedom of speech, association, worship and assembly. A "50" is even, with ratings above that point signaling positive feelings about freedoms and ratings below that point signaling negative feelings.
Wenzel said the issue for Democrats is that the Freedom Index "measures, now on a quarterly basis – deeply held public perceptions about their freedoms and the government's impact on them. These are not whimsical considerations that change with the seasons, which is why the rating measures sentiment to the tenth of a percentage point and why it moves only slightly."
Another poll just a few weeks ago foreshadowed Wenzel's latest results, finding that Americans essentially have repudiated establishment Washington and could very well demand a U.S. constitutional amendment requiring an annual balanced budget, because they have lost trust in Congress and the White House.
In that poll of voters, 47.1 percent said Washington is giving them a "poor" value for their money, and another 27.6 percent said the value is "only fair." The results cut across demographics, with Democrats having the most optimistic outlook. But even there, nearly 59 percent said the federal government's value was "only fair" or "poor."
Among the GOP respondents, almost 89 percent could not agree to rating the government's value as excellent or good, and among independents the figure was more than 77 percent.
The Freedom Index slipped over its first few months and dropped off its first cliff, from 53.6 in November 2009 to 46.4 in December at the time Obama was enacting his nationwide health care takeover as law.
"Such a plunge foretold of the 2010 electoral bloodbath Democrats suffered in congressional elections, and it portends bad news for Democrats in 2012," Wenzel said.
While the index continued to ebb and flow in the December 2009 range until this quarter, its sudden drop is revealing, especially about what Democrats believe.
For example, to the question, "Do you believe that, under the Obama administration, America has seen an increase or decrease in personal freedom?" more than 44 percent of Democrats – Obama's own party – said they have seen a decrease. For Republicans it was 85 percent and among independents it was some 72 percent.
Almost 32 percent of Americans feel not very free or not at all free to speak their thoughts "without fear of punishment, penalty, or retribution," and an even higher 35 percent said they were concerned by retaliation over those with whom they choose to associate.
Almost 28 percent, including one in three Republicans and almost the same percentage of independents, said they fear being punished or investigated for the way they choose to worship.
One in five even had concerns about discussing their personal potlicial and religious beliefs in a public place such as a restaurant or on a bus or train, and almost 27 percent said they routinely self-censor thoughts they have about a given subject because of fear of harm, punishment, social rejection or some other penalty.
Wenzel said that they believe government is taking over individuals' freedoms and spying on them electronically is very serious.
"Three out of four respondents – fully 75 percent – said they believe government is using technology to intrude on the private lives of citizens," he said. "And while majorities of all political persuasions feel the intrusion, Democrats are significantly less bothered by it than are Republicans," he said. "While 22 percent of Democrats say there is no intrusion by the government, only 9 percent of Republicans agree. At the other end of the scale, 48 percent of Republicans say there is a great deal of intrusion."
Even 30 percent of the Democrats agree, he noted.