YouGov conducted a nearly but not quite identical poll (more on that in a minute) on this topic last October. I made a big deal about it at the time and have had liberal friends ever since telling me that it’s a fluke result, that most Democrats don’t really support banning hate speech, and that I’m generally being alarmist. Well, here’s YouGov’s sequel. I’m done entertaining doubts that this is a real problem.
Don’t start hissing at the left yet, though. I hate to say it but it ain’t their party that’s growing in support for making hate speech a crime.
The question YouGov asked last year was similar but not quite exactly the same. In October, they asked whether people would support a law criminalizing public comments that “advocate genocide or hatred” against a group based on race, sex, religion, ethnicity, or orientation. They dropped the genocide part in their new poll, which, you would think, would lead to less support for criminalizing hate speech. After all, you can imagine how someone might be leery of banning a concept as hazy as “hate” while feeling more comfortable banning advocacy of a more concrete course of action, like extermination. I wouldn’t ban either but I can understand why the latter would trouble people more than the former. Instead there’s more support for criminalizing hate speech now, with 41 percent in favor versus 37 percent opposed compared to a 36/38 split last October.
But as I say, it’s not Democrats who are driving it. Compare the partisan numbers above to the partisan numbers from October:
Democratic support for banning hate speech hasn’t increased at all; on the contrary, Dems are a bit more likely to oppose a ban than they were seven months ago, a rational reaction to the creepy spectacle of western media outlets self-censoring images of Mohammed cartoons after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It’s Republicans and independents who are slowly warming to hate-speech bans. Indie opposition has dropped 12 points, with an increase of eight points in support. GOPers are now 12 points more likely to support hate-speech bans than they were last year.
There’s movement within other demographic groups too.
Support among whites and Latinos has increased slightly since October, when they split 32/43 and 49/20, respectively. The major shift is among blacks, who split 44/34 last time and now break massively in favor of banning hate speech, 62/14. Maybe that’s simple statistical error in polling a smallish subgroup, maybe it’s a reaction to heightened racial tensions this year, maybe it’s something else. But those are the numbers.
The age data is also … interesting:
The 30-44 and 45-64 groups haven’t moved much since October. The big movers are young adults and — surprise — senior citizens. The former went from an even 38/37 split last year to a 42/26 divide now, a double-digit drop in opposition to criminalizing hate speech. More shocking, the 65+ crowd went from mild 35/39 opposition in October to strong 49/33 support now. That’s got to be statistical error, right? If not, the only explanation I can come up with is that seniors are watching Christian bakers and florists who refuse to cater gay weddings being hit with nasty, vitriolic boycotts from gay-rights activists and concluding that banning “hate speech” against religion would protect those business owners somehow. If that’s what’s happening here, they’re very, very naive about whom the state will favor and disfavor under a hate-speech criminal regime. If anything, it’s the business owners who’ll do time for their “hateful” refuse to provide services to a gay couple that’s getting married.
Exit question: I can understand why progressives would want a legal cudgel to silence their enemies but I can’t understand why conservatives increasingly would. Even if you don’t value free speech enough to abhor that sort of cudgel on principle, surely you understand that the “politically incorrect” will be the main target of prosecutions. Why on earth would you enable this?