Poll: About Half Support Govt. Controls on Free Speech

By: E&P Staff

A national poll conducted for the Chicago Tribune on First Amendment issues has found that two in 10 say that newspaper editorials critical of a war the U.S. is fighting should not be allowed. Twenty percent also say that negative reporting on a war should not be allowed.

About half the public said there should have been some kind of press restraint on coverage of the prison abuse scandal in Iraq.

Overall, according to Charles M. Madigan, editor of the Tribune’s Perspective section, five or six out of every 10 people “would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, particularly when it has sexual content or is heard as unpatriotic.”

For example, 64% said radio personalities who use “implicit or explicit sexual expressions” should not be allowed on the air. Slightly more than half wants the government to “restrict violence and sexual content that appears on cable TV” and about the same approve of the government imposing “restrictions on information and content that appears on the Internet.”

The Tribune said it was surprised by “the size of the group that would choose to muzzle all kinds of expressions, from (Howard) Stern’s vulgarities to news reports on the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq to criticism of a wartime government.”

The survey of 1,000 adults, taken from June 23-27 by Market Shares Corp. of Mt. Pleasant, Ill., was said to have about a 3% range of accuracy.

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