- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2019

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 non-college graduates favoring it 74 percent to 16 percent, according to the poll.

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