We're not too far now from where a majority of Trump's fascist supporters will be comfortable with calling for the regime to take CNN, MSNBC, and other Trump critics off the air, as a new Ipsos poll for the Daily Beast finds 43% of Republicans want Trump to have final authority over which news outlets are allowed to operate in the US.
Freedom of the press may be guaranteed in the Constitution. But a plurality of Republicans want to give President Trump the authority to close down certain news outlets, according to a new public opinion survey conducted by Ipsos and provided exclusively to The Daily Beast.
The findings present a sobering picture for the fourth estate, with respondents showing diminished trust in the media and increased support for punitive measures against its members. They also illustrate the extent to which Trump’s anti-press drumbeat has shaped public opinion about the role the media plays in covering his administration.
All told, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Only 36 percent disagreed with that statement. When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) agreed and 49 percent disagreed.
Republicans were far more likely to take a negative view of the media. Forty-eight percent of them said they believed “the news media is the enemy of the American people” (just 28 percent disagreed) while nearly four out of every five (79 percent) said that they believed “the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly.”
But of course, it's not just Republicans.
But swaths of self-identified Democrats and Independents supported anti-press positions as well. According to the survey, 12 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Independents agreed that “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior” (74 percent and 55 percent, respectively, disagreed). Additionally, 12 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Independents agreed that “the news media is the enemy of the American people” (74 percent and 50 percent, respectively, disagreed)
The concept of an enemy press corps has become a staple of Trump’s tweets and public utterances in recent months. Much of it appears prompted by stories about internal frictions within the White House and a growing fear over the state of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
Members of the press, as well as top officials at some of the nation’s leading publications, have objected to the phrase, arguing that it is both wildly inaccurate and deeply dangerous. They have pointed to mob-like treatment of the media by Trump supporters at various rallies as evidence for their fears. Offered the opportunity, Trump’s spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, declined to denounce the phrase. Other Trump supports have insisted that he was merely referring to those outlets that spread false information.
It's depressing, really. Still, 85% of people in the survey agreed that freedom of the press is "essential for American democracy". That's something, but we're not far off from when that freedom is sharply curtailed, both by corporate pressure and by Trump.