Trump gets pub­lic sup­port to pro­tect col­lege free speech

Democrats hit pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers slammed Pres­i­dent Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der pro­tect­ing free speech on col­lege cam­puses, but Amer­i­can vot­ers of ev­ery po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion over­whelm­ingly sup­port the edict, ac­cord­ing to a poll.

Nearly three in four vot­ers — 73 per­cent — fa­vor Mr. Trump’s or­der last week that re­quired U.S. col­leges to pro­tect free speech or risk los­ing fed­eral re­search dol­lars, ac­cord­ing to a poll con­ducted by McLaughlin & As­so­ciates for the Wil­liam F. Buck­ley Jr. Pro­gram at Yale Univer­sity.

The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ceived a pre­view of the data.

Most strik­ingly, the data showed broad agree­ment with Mr. Trump on col­lege free speech re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal party, race, sex or ed­u­ca­tion level.

The deep sup­port on the is­sue in­cluded 42 per­cent who “strongly fa­vor” the ex­ec­u­tive or­der and 31 per­cent who “some­what fa­vor” it.

“Peo­ple are look­ing at this in a par­ti­san light be­cause it is a Trump pro­posal and it is al­most re­flex­ive for the Democrats to be against it. But this is a non­par­ti­san is­sue,” said Jim McLaughlin, pres­i­dent and part­ner of the polling firm. “You can’t get three-quar­ters of Amer­i­cans to agree on too many things. Three-quar­ters of Amer­i­cans are con­cerned enough about free speech that they agree with the pres­i­dent’s or­der.”

As with the ex­ec­u­tive or­der, the poll found broad agree­ment among Amer­i­can vot­ers, 66 per­cent, on call­ing the col­lege ad­mis­sions process a rigged sys­tem that fa­vors the rich, pow­er­ful and well-con­nected.

The re­cently re­vealed scheme of wealthy par­ents brib­ing and cheat­ing to get their chil­dren into top-notch uni­ver­si­ties is just one ex­am­ple of the prob­lem, said 60 per­cent of Repub­li­cans, 68 per­cent of Democrats and 69 per­cent of in­de­pen­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the poll, women were more likely to say the sys­tem was “rigged,” by a mar­gin of 69 per­cent to 22 per­cent, com­pared with men, who called it fraud­u­lent by a mar­gin of 62 per­cent to 31 per­cent.

An­nounc­ing the ex­ec­u­tive or­der on free speech, Mr. Trump said many uni­ver­si­ties pocket bil­lions of tax­payer dol­lars while try­ing to “re­strict free thought, im­pose to­tal con­form­ity and shut down the voices of great young Amer­i­cans.”

He noted the case of Hay­den Wil­liams, who was at­tacked and punched in the face at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berkeley, while re­cruit­ing for the con­ser­va­tive group Turn­ing Point USA.

“Punched hard in the face, but he didn’t go down,” the pres­i­dent said of Mr. Wil­liams, mak­ing his or­deal a metaphor for the free speech fight on cam­puses.

When Mr. Trump first floated the idea of an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in a speech March 2 at the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence, he also in­voked Mr. Wil­liams.

For decades, con­ser­va­tives have raised alarm about uni­ver­si­ties sti­fling con­ser­va­tive speech and ideas while in­doc­tri­nat­ing stu­dents in left-wing thought.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers and lib­eral ac­tivists coun­tered that sup­pres­sion of speech on cam­pus was rare and that the ex­ec­u­tive or­der was in­tended to boost con­ser­va­tive thought in the U.S.

“Pres­i­dent Trump doesn’t have a li­cense to black­mail uni­ver­si­ties. He’s the pres­i­dent, not a dic­ta­tor, and his empty threats are an abuse of power,” tweeted Rep. Bar­bara Lee, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat whose district in­cludes the Berkeley cam­pus.

In the poll, sup­port for the ex­ec­u­tive or­der was greater than 70 per­cent for ev­ery ide­o­log­i­cal stripe, though it did come in slightly higher among Repub­li­cans (76 per­cent to 15 per­cent) than among Democrats (71 per­cent to 20 per­cent) and in­de­pen­dents (72 per­cent to 19 per­cent).

The most sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tions were in the in­ten­sity, as 48 per­cent of Repub­li­cans “strongly fa­vor” the ex­ec­u­tive or­der com­pared with 38 per­cent of Democrats who felt that way.

The polling re­sults showed no di­vi­sion be­tween the sexes on the pres­i­dent’s or­der, with 73 per­cent of men and women voic­ing sup­port.

It also uni­fied racial groups. His­pan­ics gave it the most sup­port (75 per­cent to 19 per­cent), fol­lowed by whites (73 per­cent to 17 per­cent) and blacks (67 per­cent to 25 per­cent).

There was no sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence by ed­u­ca­tion level ei­ther, with col­lege grad­u­ates fa­vor­ing the ex­ec­u­tive or­der 72 per­cent to 21 per­cent and non­col­lege grad­u­ates fa­vor­ing it 74 per­cent to 16 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the poll.

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