Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren supporters more likely to support speech bans than general population

U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders
U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., (L) and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., walk to the Senate floor after the weekly Democratic caucus policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 12, 2015. |

Supporters of Democratic presidential primary candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren are more likely than the general population to support banning offensive speech.

The polling organization Rasmussen Reports and the conservative think tank the Heartland Institute released the findings of a survey on free speech on Wednesday.

When asking if federal or state governments should “ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech considered to be racist or sexist,” 27 percent said yes, 50 percent said no, and 24 percent said they were unsure.

By contrast, 51 percent of respondents who said they have a “very favorable” view of Sen. Sanders and 36 percent who said they have a “somewhat favorable” view of Sanders said yes to having governments ban offensive speech.

Among respondents who said they hold a “very favorable” view of Sen. Warren, 49 percent said that the federal or state governments should “ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive,” while 37 percent of those with a “somewhat favorable” view of Warren supported such a ban.

The report also found that 22 percent of Republican respondents and 24 percent of self-identified conservative respondents supported federal or state governments banning speech that most Americans find offensive.

For their data, Heartland and Rasmussen drew from a national survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Nov. 13-14, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The exception to this was question two of the survey (“Should those who violate such bans against offensive speech be punished with jail time?”), which had a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points and answered only by those who said they agreed that the government should ban offensive speech.

For that question, 48 percent of respondents who wanted to ban speech said “yes” to jail time for those who violated such bans, while 35 percent said “no” and 17 percent were unsure.

In October, the group the Campaign for Free Speech released a report showing that half of Americans believed that the First Amendment “goes too far” in protecting free speech.

Based off of a survey conducted in early September of about 1,000 U.S. adults, the Campaign found that 50 percent of respondents said they either “strongly” agreed or “somewhat” agreed with the statement, “The First Amendment goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America and should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.”

CFS also found that 48 percent of respondents believed “hate speech” should be against the law, with 31 percent saying it should be “allowed,” and 21 percent responding that they “did not know.”

“These new polling results indicate free speech is under more threat than previously believed,” Campaign for Free Speech Executive Director Bob Lystad said in a statement released in October.

“Our new initiative aims to combat this concerning trend by highlighting how restricted speech and a restricted press harms everyone, regardless of political affiliation. America can’t be a free country without open dialogue and a robust press.”

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