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Emily Ekins

Emily Ekins

Articles by Emily Ekins

Poll: Young Americans Are More Likely to Resent the Rich

7 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds that Americans under 30 stand out from their parents and grandparents’ in their attitudes toward socialism, capitalism, and resentment toward the rich. These results may help explain the striking success of self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders in capturing the support of the young.
Young Americans Are Equally Favorable toward Capitalism and Socialism
Young Americans under age 30 stand out from their elders with their relative ambivalence toward capitalism and much greater support for socialism. Barely half of Americans under 45 have favorable views of capitalism compared to 58% of those ages 45–54, 65% of people ages 55–64, and 76% of seniors (ages 65+). In reverse fashion, 50% of Americans under 30 have favorable

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62% of Americans Say Billionaires Don’t Threaten Democracy, but 54% of Democrats Say Billionaires Are a Threat

8 days ago

In recent months Democratic presidential candidates likeSen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have proposed imposing wealth taxes while lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have suggested returning top marginal tax rates to 70%. However, some have cautioned that such proposals would not do much to raise government revenue. However, supporters of these tax proposals have argued that raising revenue isn’t really the point.
For instance, economists Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez argued in the New York Times that raising taxes on the wealthy was to safeguard “democracy against oligarchy.” Vanessa Williamson from the Brookings concurred arguingthat “the purpose of high tax rates on the rich is the reduction of vast fortunes that give a handful of people a level of power

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Poll: Democrats Say Seeking Personal Satisfaction Is More Important to Them; Republicans Say Fulfilling Obligation Is More Important

11 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey of 1,700 Americans investigated if Americans prioritize seeking personal fulfillment or fulfilling obligation.
A slim majority (52%) say it’s more important for them to “work hard and do what is expected of you,” while 47% say it’s more important for them to do things that “give you personal satisfaction and pleasure.”[1]
Republicans Prioritize Fulfilling Obligation; Democrats Prioritize SeekingPersonal Satisfaction

Partisans are starkly divided. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Republicans say it’s more important in their own lives to work hard and do what is expected of them. In contrast, a solid majority (57%) of Democrats say it’s more important for them to pursue things that give them personal satisfaction and pleasure.

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Poll: 58% of Americans Favor Vouchers for K–12 Private School

12 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds a solid majority (58%) of Americans favor a proposal that would allow parents to use a “voucher to enroll their children in a private school” with “government helping to pay the tuition” while 40% oppose.

Full survey results and report found here.
African Americans, lower-income Americans, high school graduates, and Republicans are most likely to favor letting parents use vouchers to send their kids to private school.
More than two-thirds (69%) of African Americans support school vouchers, compared to 56% of White and Latino Americans.
Nearly three-fourths (73%) of people with annual incomes below $20,000 and 64% of high school graduates support school vouchers. But support drops among those with incomes above $20,000 and

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Poll: 55% of Americans Favor Decriminalizing Drugs

13 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds that a majority, 55%, of Americans favor “recategorizing drug offenses from felonies to civil offenses” such that they “would be treated like minor traffic violations rather than crimes.” Forty-four percent (44%) oppose treating drug offenses like traffic tickets.
Full survey results and report found here.
Majorities of Democrats (69%) and independents (54%) support decriminalizing drug offenses. However, most Republicans (59%) oppose this change while 40% favor.
This partisan gap is consistent with Gallup polling that has found Democrats and independents are more supportive than Republicans of legalizing certain types of drugs. For instance, Gallup found Democrats (75%) and independents (71%) are about 20 points more likely

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Poll: 59% of Americans Favor Building More Housing in Their Neighborhood

14 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds 59% of Americans favor building more houses, condos, and apartment buildings in their community while 39% oppose. These data suggest that liberalizing density zoning is desired among the public.
Full survey results and report found here.
Expanding the supply of housing is broadly popular across partisans and demographics—particularly in cities. City residents (69%) are nearly 20 points more supportive than suburban residents (52%) of building more housing. Majorities of White (56%), Black (62%), and Latino (66%) Americans also favor building more housing.
Majorities of Democrats (67%), independents (57%) favor building more housing in their neighborhoods. A slim majority (52%) of Republicans also favor more construction in

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Poll: The Democratic Coalition Is Divided Over Socialism, Attitudes Toward the Rich

14 days ago

With the democratic primaries underway, the multitude of Democratic candidates will likely highlight the fault lines that divide the Democratic Party. The recent Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey found one such fault line dividing liberal and moderate Democrats: socialism and attitudes toward the rich.

Liberal Democrats are about 10-25 points more likely than moderate Democrats to:
have favorable views of socialism (74% vs. 49%)
to strongly support raising top marginal tax rates to 70% (60% vs. 38%)
to strongly agree that people admire the rich too much (51% vs. 36%)
to strongly agree the U.S. wealth distribution is “unjust” (51% vs. 30%)
to believe that billionaires are a threat to democracy (58% vs. 49%)
Conversely, moderate Democrats like the rich more than liberal

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Poll: Who Finds the Most Meaning in their Lives?

15 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey investigated who finds greater meaning and purpose in their lives. The survey found that Americans’ beliefs about hard work, responsibility, and agency may have something to do with it. Overall, 83% of Americans agree that:“I feel like I have purpose in my life; my life has meaning,” while 16% disagree. A little less than half (46%) “strongly agree” and 37% somewhat agree their lives have meaning.
Full survey results and report found here.
Some types of people are more likely to say they have greater meaning and purpose in their lives.[1]People who:
strongly believe hard work is its own reward (74%)
strongly believe they have personal agency (68%)
strongly believe in personal responsibility (60%)
are very compassionate (58%)
are not

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Poll: What Americans Think Cause Wealth and Poverty

18 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey investigated what Americans believe cause wealth and poverty. Americans believe the top three reasons most important for determining a person’s wealth and success are hard work and grit (50%), ambition (38%), and family connections (31%). Not far behind include a willingness to take risks (29%), education (27%), inheritance (27%), self-discipline (27%), luck (20%), natural intelligence (18%), race and gender (11%), and special favors from government (9%).

Full survey results and report found here.
When asked the top three causes of poverty in this country, Americans agree that poor life choices (42%) and abuse of drugs and alcohol (40%) are key. But the public is divided about what the third factor is: about 3 in 10 think lack of

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Poll: 77% Say Government Efforts to Fight Poverty Have Been “Ineffective”

19 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds that 77% of Americans say government efforts to fight poverty over the past 10 to 15 years have been “ineffective.” A quarter (23%) disagree and say anti-poverty efforts have been effective.
This perception is not controversial, with majorities of welfare recipients (63%) and nonrecipients (80%), Democrats (73%), independents (72%), and Republicans (83%) in agreement that the government’s war on poverty hasn’t worked.
Full survey results and report found here.
60% of Americans Don’t Think Welfare Programs Are Designed to Lift PeopleOut of Poverty

Perhaps part of the reason is that Most Americans believe that government welfare programs are not designed to help people climb out of poverty. Instead, 60% believe these programs

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Poll: 59% of Americans Have Favorable Views of Capitalism; 59% Have Unfavorable Views of Socialism

19 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds that Americans continue to have more favorable attitudes toward “capitalism” than “socialism.” However, groups vary significantly in their reactions to the terms. A majority (59%) of Americans have favorable views of the word “capitalism,” while 39% have an unfavorable view of it. In reverse, 39% of Americans have a favorable view of the word “socialism,” while 59% view socialism negatively.

Full survey results and report found here.
Democrats Feel More Favorable toward Socialism Than Capitalism
Democrats stand out with a majority (64%) who have a favorable view of socialism, while less than half (45%) have a favorable view of capitalism. Instead, a majority of Democrats (54%) have a negative view of capitalism.
In contrast,

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Poll: 79% of Americans Say Economic Growth Will Better Help People Climb Out of Poverty Than More Welfare Spending

20 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds that 79% of Americans believe that more economic growth rather than more welfare spending (19%) will better help people escape poverty.
The focus on economic growth over welfare spending is not controversial. Majorities of Democrats (69%), independents (76%), Republicans (90%), current welfare recipients (76%), and nonrecipients (79%) agree more economic growth will better help people in poverty.
Full survey results and report found here.
Despite this, a majority of Democrats (66%) would also like to raise welfare spending, while 61% of independents and 83% of Republicans would not. This implies that Democrats do not believe increasing welfare spending comes at a cost to economic growth. Republicans, on the other hand, appear

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Poll: Democratic Support for Socialism Rises Under Trump

20 days ago

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey finds that a growing majority—64%—of Democrats have favorable views of socialism, up from 53% in 2012. Only 45% of Democrats have a positive view of capitalism, down from 55% in 2012. Instead, today a majority (54%) of Democrats have negative views of capitalism.

Full survey results and report found here.
In contrast, majorities of Republicans and independents have favorable views of capitalism and unfavorable views of socialism. But Republicans are considerably more favorable toward capitalism than independents by a margin of 77% to 52% and more unfavorable toward socialism, 85% vs. 58%.
Democrats Turn Against Capitalism and Toward Socialism during the Trump Era
Survey data over time reveals that Democrats began turning against

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Poll: 82% of Americans Say Billionaires Should Be Allowed to Exist

21 days ago

This morning Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) proposed a new wealth tax. According to The New York Times, the plan would cut the wealth of a typical billionaire in half within 15 years. Sanders reasoning? He asserted:“I don’t think that billionaires should exist.” He explained that the purpose of the plan is to “significantly reduce income and wealth inequality in America by telling the wealthiest families in this country they cannot have so much wealth.”
However, the Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey released this morning finds that 82% of Americans think billionaires should be allowed. Less than a fifth (17%) think people should not be allowed to become billionaires.
These results are consistent with the same survey’s finding that 84% of

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Poll: 84% Say There’s Nothing Wrong with Trying to Make as Much Money as Possible; Democrats Turn Toward Socialism Under Trump

21 days ago

Democrats Say Trump Has Soured Their Views of Capitalism; Americans Support Raising Income Taxes on Rich but Not Wealth Redistribution, Democratic Coalition Divided over Socialism, Americans Say Billionaires Aren’t “Immoral,” Most Say Gov’t Efforts to Fight Poverty Are “Ineffective,” Americans Support Building More Housing, School Vouchers, Decriminalizing Drug Offenses

The Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth Survey, a new national poll of 1,700 U.S. adults, finds that 84% of Americans say there is nothing wrong with trying to make as much money as one honestly can. The survey also finds the public believes that growing the economic pie benefits more than just the wealthy: 79% say economic growth will better help people climb out of poverty than more welfare spending.

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68% of Americans Wouldn’t Pay $10 a Month in Higher Electric Bills to Combat Climate Change

March 8, 2019

Public opinion polls have long found that Americans say they are concerned about climate change. But does that mean people are willing to reduce their own standard of living and make personal sacrifices in efforts to do something about it? New survey data suggests not. An AP-NORC survey finds that 68% of Americans wouldn’t be willing to pay even $10 more a month in higher electric bills even if the money were used to combat climate change.

Proposals that use government intervention in the economy to combat climate change, like the Green New Deal (GND), will require people make personal sacrifices. The GND resolution, introduced to Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), calls for the U.S. to undertake a 10 year national

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Why Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Support a 70% Top Marginal Tax Rate? What Psychology Says About How Envy and Compassion Motivate Tax Preferences

January 29, 2019

This month, the newly minted Democratic Congresswomen from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) suggested levying a 70% tax rate on the rich. After stagflation in 1970s, many had assumed we’d reached a consensus that extraordinarily high marginal tax rates are unsustainable. So why do these ideas keep popping up? Social psychology may help explain why. A recent academic study finds that support for redistribution by taxing the rich to give to the poor is likely driven by several psychological motives including not only compassion but also envy.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes Rep. Ocasio-Cortez explained:
You know, it— you look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system. Your tax rate, you know, let’s say, from zero to

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California’s 6-Month Paid Leave Program is Not as Popular as You Think

January 16, 2019

At a press conference earlier this month, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new plan to offer 6-months of paid family leave in the Golden State. Despite it being the most generous in the nation, CNN parenting contributor Elissa Strauss felt it’s not enough, saying it’s “so much better than nothing, but leaves room for improvement.” Yet, the Cato 2018 Paid Leave Survey finds that at the national level, Americans are not supportive of establishing a 6-month paid leave program. 
The survey found that less than half (48%) support “establishing a new government program to provide 6-months of paid, job-protected, leave to workers after the birth or adoption of a child or to deal with their own or a family members serious illness.” Fifty-percent (50%) oppose establishing a 6-month

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69% Oppose Creating Federal Paid Leave Program If It Harms Women’s Career Prospects

December 17, 2018

The national Cato 2018 Paid Leave Survey of 1,700 adults finds widespread support for creating a federal paid leave program, with 74% in favor. However, 69% of Americans would oppose establishing a federal paid leave program if it meant that fewer women would get promoted and become managers. But would establishing a federal program actually do this? Research suggests that it could and that’s why we asked about it on the survey:
Read about the full survey results and methodology here.
First, let’s consider the different career outcomes between women in the United States and women in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Academic research finds that American women are more likely to rise up the corporate ladder than their European counterparts who have access to generous family social

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78% of Americans Support Parental Leave Savings Accounts

December 14, 2018

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans (78%) support creating family and medical leave savings accounts. The national Cato 2018 Paid Leave Survey of 1,700 adults finds the public favors allowing workers to set aside money in tax-advantaged savings accounts that could be used if they need to take family or medical leave. A fifth (20%) would oppose the creation of family and medical leave accounts.
Read about the full survey results and methodology here.
Establishing family leave savings accounts enjoys rare bipartisan support: 82% of Democrats, 80% of Republicans and 69% of independents support offering tax-advantages to people who set aside money for parental, family, or medical leave. 
Women (80%) and men (76%) also overwhelmingly agree about establishing these types of accounts. These numbers

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Poll: 74% of Americans Support Federal Paid Leave Program When Costs Not Mentioned—60% Oppose if They Got Smaller Pay Raises in the Future

December 11, 2018

The Cato 2018 Paid Leave Survey, a new national poll of 1,700 U.S. adults, finds that nearly three-fourths (74%) of Americans support a new federal government program to provide 12 weeks of paid leave to new parents or to people to deal with their own or a family member’s serious illness. A quarter (25%) oppose establishing a federal paid leave program. However, support slips and consensus fractures when costs are considered.
Read about the full survey results here.

The survey found 54% of Americans would be willing to pay $200 a year in higher taxes, a low-end estimate, in exchange for a 12-week federal paid leave program. If the program were to cost them $450 in taxes a year—the mid-range estimate—52% of Americans would oppose it, while 56% would oppose if it cost them the high

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What Americans Think about Birthright Citizenship

November 14, 2018

Last week I appeared on Hill.TV’s What America’s Thinking with Jamal Simmons to discuss what the public thinks about birthright citizenship. President Trump has proposed using an executive order to curtail birthright citizenship, which confers automatic citizenship on children born in the United States regardless of their parents’ nationality. Constitutional legal scholars say the president doesn’t have the authority to do this. What do Americans think about the value of birthright citizenship?

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The Hill partnered with HarrisX to conduct a nationally representative survey of 1,000 registered voters November 2-3 to find out. First, the survey asked about a child born to a mother legally residing in the United States on a temporary visa: 57% said the child should be

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Poll: The ACA’s Pre-existing Condition Regulations Lose Support When the Public Learns the Cost

November 5, 2018

Days before the 2018 midterms, 68% of voters say that health care is very or extremely important to how they plan to vote in this year’s elections, according to a new Cato 2018 Health Care Survey of 2,498 Americans. These numbers are driven primarily by Democratic voters with 86% who say this issue is especially important to them—in fact, 56% say the issue is “extremely important” to them. Independent (33%) and Republican voters (21%) are far less likely to say this is an “extremely” crucial issue for their vote this Tuesday.

These results are consistent with analysis of 2018 campaign ads, which finds Democrats have made healthcare the centerpiece of their case to voters. About half of Democratic ads have featured health care issues compared to less than

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Results from the 2018 Libertarianism vs. Conservatism Post-Debate Survey

August 21, 2018

As part of a yearly summer tradition, the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute co-host a debate in which interns at both think tanks debate whether conservatism or libertarianism is a better ideology. Following this year’s debate, the Cato Institute conducted a post-debate survey of attendees to ask who they thought won the debate and what they believe about a variety of public policy and philosophical issues. The post-debate survey offers a unique opportunity to examine how young leaders in the conservative and libertarian movements approach deep philosophical questions that may be inaccessible to a general audience.
2018 Intern Debate Survey

Despite agreement on domestic economic issues and free trade, the survey finds striking differences between conservative and libertarian

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82% Say It’s Hard to Ban Hate Speech Because People Can’t Agree What Speech Is Hateful

November 8, 2017

An overwhelming majority (82%) of Americans agree that “it would be hard to ban hate speech because people can’t agree what speech is hateful,” the Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey finds. Seventeen percent (17%) disagree. Majorities across partisan and demographic groups alike agree that hate speech is hard to define and thus may be hard to regulate.
Full survey results and report found here.

How Do Americans Define Hate Speech?
When presented with specific statements and ideas, Americans can’t agree on what speech is hateful, offensive, or simply a political opinion
Besides slurs and biological racism, Americans are strikingly at odds over what speech and ideas constitute hate.[1] For instance, a majority of Democrats (52%) believe saying that transgender people have a

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20% of College Students Say College Faculty Has Balanced Mix of Political Views

November 6, 2017

The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey finds only 20% of current college and graduate students believe their college or university faculty has a balanced mix of political views. A plurality (39%) say most college and university professors are liberal, 27% believe most are politically moderate, and 12% believe most are conservative.
College Democrats Less Likely Than Republicans to Think Faculty Is Liberal
Democratic and Republican students see their college campuses very differently. A majority (59%) of Republican college students believe that most faculty members are liberal. In contrast, only 35% of Democratic college students agree most professors are liberal. Democratic students are also about twice as likely as Republican students to think their professors are moderate

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51% of Strong Liberals Say It’s Morally Acceptable to Punch Nazis

November 3, 2017

Is violence an appropriate response to hate speech? The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolernace Survey finds most Americans say no. More than two-thirds (68%) of Americans say it is not morally acceptable to punch a Nazi in the face. About a third (32%), however, say it is morally acceptable.[1] 
Strong liberals stand out with a slim majority (51%) who say it’s moral to punch Nazis. Only 21% of strong conservatives agree.

Full survey results and report found here.
Strong liberals’ approval of Nazi-punching is not representative of Democrats as a whole. A majority (56%) of Democrats believe it is not morally acceptable to punch a Nazi. Thus, tolerance of violence as a response to offensive speech and ideas is found primarily on the far Left.
The survey found liberals were more likely to

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Clinton Voters Can’t Be Friends with Trump Voters

November 2, 2017

The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey finds nearly two-thirds (61%) of Clinton voters agree that it’s “hard” to be friends with people who voted for Donald Trump, while 38% disagree. However, Trump voters don’t feel a similar animus toward Clinton voters. Instead, a majority (64%) of Trump voters do not think that it’s hard to be friends with Clinton voters while 34% believe it is difficult.
Full survey results and report found here.
Sign up here to receive forthcoming Cato Institute survey reports.
The Cato Institute 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey was designed and conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov. YouGov collected responses online August 15-23, 2017 from a national sample of 2,300 Americans 18 years of age and older. The margin of error

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Is Supporting Racists’ Free Speech Rights the Same as Being a Racist?

November 1, 2017

Student protesters at the College of William and Mary recently shut down a campus speaker from the ACLU invited (ironically) to speak about “Students and the First Amendment.” Students explained their shut down was in retaliation for the ACLU’s defense of white nationalists’ free speech rights in Charlottesville, Virginia where a white nationalist rally recently took place. What motivated the students?
The Black Lives Matter of William and Mary student group wrote on their Facebook page, where they live-streamed their shut down of the event: “We want to reaffirm our position of zero tolerance for white supremacy no matter what form it decides to masquerade in.” From these students’ perspective, the ACLU supporting someone’s right to say racist things was as bad as being a racist

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63% of Republicans Say Journalists Are an “Enemy of the American People”

November 1, 2017

Early in his presidential tenure, Donald Trump tweeted that the national news media is “fake news” and that it is an enemy of the American people. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans do not agree with President Trump that journalists today are an “enemy of the American people,” finds the Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey. Thirty-five percent (35%) side with the president.
However, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Republicans agree that journalists are an enemy of the American people. Such a charge is highly polarizing: 89% of Democrats and 61% of independents do not think journalists are the enemy.

52% of Democrats Say Media Is Doing a Good Job Holding Government Accountable
While Republicans stand out with their negative view of the media, Democrats have uniquely positive

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