Authoritarians of a feather flock together. Those who believe in big government seem more likely to trust government to regulate speech. Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are more likely to say the government should ban offensive speech, jail people who say offensive things, and prevent offensive people from running for public office, according to a new poll from the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports.
When asked, “Should federal or state governments ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech considered to be racist or sexist,” most likely voters (50 percent) said “no,” while 27 percent said “yes,” and 24 percent said they were “not sure.”
Yet a full 51 percent of likely voters who said they have a “very favorable” view of Bernie Sanders said governments should ban “offensive” speech. Thirty-six percent of those with a “somewhat favorable” view of Sanders agreed. Similarly, 49 percent of those who had a “very favorable” view of Elizabeth Warren also supported speech bans, as did 37 percent of those with a “somewhat favorable” view of her.
If a likely voter said he or she would support such a speech ban, the pollsters asked him or her, “Should those who violate such bans against offensive speech be punished with jail time?” Of the 27 percent of voters who supported speech bans, 48 percent said people who violate these bans should be punished with jail time.
Among supporters of speech bans with a “very favorable” view of Bernie Sanders, 58 percent said people who violate speech bans should be punished with jail time. Forty-five percent of those with a “somewhat favorable” view of Sanders agreed. Similarly, among supporters of speech bans with a “very favorable” view of Warren, 56 percent favored jail time for speech offenders. Another 45 percent of those with a “somewhat favorable” view agreed.
Finally, the poll asked all respondents, “Should those who say or write things a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech considered to be racist or sexist, be banned from holding public office, such as becoming a member of Congress or president of the United States?” More voters said “no” (44 percent) than “yes” (38 percent), but the numbers proved surprisingly close.
Most voters with a “very favorable” view of Sanders (61 percent) agreed that “offensive” speech should disqualify someone from public office. Another 55 percent of voters with a “somewhat favorable” view of him agreed. Strong supporters of Warren (67 percent) also proved likely to support banning “offensive” speakers from public office, as did most of her weaker supporters (51 percent).
Voters who said they would consider voting for a presidential candidate who identifies as a socialist were also more likely (50 percent) to support speech bans. Socialist-leaning voters who supported speech bans were the most likely to say speech offenders belong in jail (68 percent). Most socialist-leaning voters also favored banning “offensive” speakers from public office (60 percent).
Fewer Democrats (37 percent) supported speech bans, and 46 percent of those who did said speech offenders should get jail time.
Government employees also proved less likely to support free speech. Forty-two percent of self-identified government workers supported speech bans, with 62 percent of that group saying speech offenders should spend time in jail. Most government workers (54 percent) also said “offensive” speakers should be banned from office.
It should not be surprising that voters who support big government candidates like Warren and Sanders would also support restrictions on free speech. People who would trust big government to effectively replace the market on health care, wages, and education might also trust the government to regulate the marketplace of ideas.
This poll helps illustrate just how un-American this authoritarian streak really is. Fans of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders don’t just want socialized medicine — they want government in the business of policing speech. Americans must reject this totalitarian mentality.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.