This past week, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of 629 Republican primary voters, which included three questions regarding freedom of expression. The results were shocking to say the least.
These questions come shortly after two Washington teenagers were suspended for wearing Confederate flags to school in response to a fellow student who had worn a flag for LGBT history month. While school officials were willing to designate the flag of a nation that seceded from the United States as more objectionable than one designed to symbolize inclusion for people of all sexual preferences, today's Republican Party apparently is not.
Ultimately, it should not come as a surprise that the party that has become increasingly associated with old, white men is more tolerant of a 160-year-old flag than one designed to represent a demographic often marginalized by conservatives. The most troubling part of this poll is that a party willing to create such terms as "corporate personhood" to rationalize unrestricted campaign spending is unable to recognize the basic civil liberties of a minority. For all the ideas about defending the Constitution that appear in modern right-wing rhetoric, it is remarkable how few members of the party are willing to acknowledge the First Amendment when it crosses their beliefs. Even if one identifies with the Confederate flag as symbolic of Southern heritage, it is ridiculous that sexual orientation does not at least get the same respect as regionalism in the year 2013.
If nothing else, this poll should come as a warning to Republican leaders, particularly those already wary of the party's rightward drift. When the majority of voters oppose the simple act of expressing membership in the LGBT community, it may be time to tone down the rhetoric. Given Hawaii's recent legalization of gay marriage, and polls indicating record-high numbers of support for gay rights, it's looking like the GOP will have to re-examine parts of its platform if it wants to stay relevant in an increasingly diverse country.