A new survey from Rasmussen Reports was recently released on the Fairness Doctrine. I can’t even believe we are talking about government control of the airwaves (tv, radio, internet, satellite) when every view is readily available to anyone that wants to find it (as opposed to when it was originally instituted in 1949). Can government control of the airwaves, or of most anything for that matter, be a preferred choice to free press and free speech? Do we really think the government knows the meaning of “fair”?
Here’s the report from Rasmussen:
Nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the government should require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary, but they draw the line at imposing that same requirement on the Internet. Thirty-nine percent (39%) say leave radio and TV alone, too.
At the same time, 71% say it is already possible for just about any political view to be heard in today’s media, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Twenty percent (20%) do not agree.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) say the government should not require websites and blog sites that offer political commentary to present opposing viewpoints. But 31% believe the Internet sites should be forced to balance their commentary.
Democrats are more supportive of government involvement in the airwaves than Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Democrats favor it, and only 26% are opposed. Republicans and unaffiliated voters are fairly evenly divided.
Even Democrats say hands-off the Internet though but by a far smaller margin than Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Democrats oppose government-mandated balance on the Internet by a 48% to 37% margin. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Republicans reject government involvement in Internet content along with 67% of unaffiliated voters.
Only 45% of Americans say they are following recent news stories about the Fairness Doctrine even somewhat closely, while 15% say they are not following the story at all.
Democrats have been pushing the Fairness Doctrine in part because of the long-standing complaint by liberals that conservatives dominate talk radio. Conservatives counter that their political foes are just trying to use the government to push liberal talk radio even though it has been rejected by the marketplace.
In the new survey, 42% say there are more conservative radio talk shows because they get better ratings, but 28% believe it is because stations owners are biased. Seventeen percent (17%) attribute it to an unspecified other reason, and 13% are unsure.
Most Republicans (61%) believe conservative talk radio has flourished because of the ratings, with only 11% saying it is due to bias. Democrats, on the other hand, see bias as the reason over ratings by a 42% to 28% margin. Among unaffiliateds, 42% say ratings and 27% say bias.
Voters in all categories agree by sizable margins that it is possible for just about any political view to be heard in today’s media.
With the Congress expected to stay firmly under Democratic control, the responses of those who plan to vote for the party’s presidential candidate Barack Obama versus his Republican opponent John McCain suggest what direction the Fairness Doctrine debate is likely to take in the coming year. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of likely Obama voters believe the government should make all radio and TV stations offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal commentary, as opposed to 40% of potential McCain voters who feel that way. But 63% of McCain voters and 53% of Obama voters reject similar regulation of web sites and bloggers.
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows that the race between Obama and McCain remains close and stable.