YouGov: 67% of Republicans say people who burn the flag should be stripped of citizenship

Thankfully no one in a position of authority has endorsed this highly illiberal idea.

Oh. Right.

There’s less to this poll than meets the eye, I think. I hope?

I suspect most people who hear a question like that aren’t taking it at face value but are treating it as a proxy for whether flag-burning is broadly right or wrong. Would a good American burn the flag? Hell no, say Republicans! It’s our damned right to protest, counter Democrats! And that shakes out to the partisan mirror images we’re seeing here.

But it’s not that simple. A question that asked simply whether flag-burning is wrong would probably draw majorities of both parties. (Maybe?) A question that asked whether flag-burning should be punished with death wouldn’t approach majority levels on either side. (Again, I hope.) Tying it to citizenship is an in-between sanction that zeroes in on patriotism. How does a person who feels such contempt for America that he’d torch the flag rightly call himself an American? That’s what this question’s getting at. Few who answer are thinking through the implications of mainstreaming exile as a punishment for civic blasphemy. They’re treating it as a gut-check about whether someone who despises the country enough to burn Old Glory deserves the label of “American” as much as everyone else does.

Some righties who noticed the poll on Twitter this afternoon wondered how the results would have looked if YouGov had asked whether people who wave the Russian flag or celebrate Putin’s interference in the 2016 election should be deported. More Dems than Republicans would vote yes on that one, even though that result would also be obnoxious. Likewise, the idea of making “hate speech” a crime is perfectly mainstream in Europe and enjoys majority support among Democrats if you believe other YouGov polls. Asking about penalties for burning the American flag but not for desecrating other highly charged symbols more sacred to the left feels like YouGov’s way of gaming the poll to highlight illiberal tendencies on one side of the aisle only.

Exit question: Is it really that unlikely that a majority of Republicans would still support this idea after giving it some thought if Trump went all-in on championing it? Sixty-seven percent in favor seems unlikely, but what about 51 percent?