An interesting poll out today by pollster Scott Rasmussen: Asked whether the government should require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of liberal and conservative political commentary, 47 percent — nearly half — said “yes.” (39 percent were opposed). Perhaps even more surprising, support has increased since last year, when Americans split evenly (41-41) on this issue.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise. Americans, after all, have long been lukewarm about the First Amendment, with opinion polls famously (though perhaps apocryphally) have long shown would itself be opposed by most Americans. Moreover, a casual answer to a pollster is a long way from active support of a particular law.
Still, the results of this poll should be troubling for defenders of free speech in general, and opponents of the fairness doctrine in particular. Although an explicit re-institution of the long-dead doctrine is still not likely, this poll underscores the general danger of other content controls that may achieve the same ends under a different name.
Oh, and those of you who get their news from blogs shouldn’t feel too cocky about the dangers faced by the old-fashioned broadcasters. The same Rasmussen poll showed that 31 percent of the public supports Fairness Doctrine controls on blogs, too.