Note that those aren’t the numbers among the total population, just the numbers among those who thought the decision to cancel the show was wrong. YouGov polled that question separately and found that 21 percent of Trump voters thought ABC was right to cancel the show versus 65 percent(!) who thought it was wrong to do so. Do a little fancy shmancy second-grade math, multiplying the share who thought the decision was wrong by the share within that group who thought cancellation violated Roseanne’s free speech, and you find 45.5 percent of Trump voters in total who see a free-speech infringement here. Whereas if you combine the share who thought ABC was right to cancel with the share who thought it was wrong but *not* a violation of her free speech, you get 36.6 percent.
The obvious question for the 45.5 percent: What about ABC’s free-speech rights? Why should they be forced to subsidize Roseanne’s show while she makes racist jokes about Valerie Jarrett?
Well, for one thing, a plurality of Trump voters don’t think the joke was racist:
You can’t see the numbers in that image but I can confirm your suspicions. The share who thought the joke wasn’t racist is 45 percent, the same number who allegedly think Roseanne’s free-speech rights were violated by having her show canceled. What’s probably happening in this poll is that people who strongly oppose the decision to cancel are using the questions to register the intensity of their displeasure without paying much attention to the specifics. If you think it’s messed up that she got fired then *any* question you’re asked about it might lead you to choose the most negative answer available. “Was it wrong to cancel?” Hell yes! “Did it violate her free-speech rights?” Sure! Hell yes! “Should Roseanne be able to sue ABC for a billion trillion zillion dollars?” They didn’t ask that one but it’d probably also be a “hell yes.” In other words, the questions might not be measuring nuanced views on free speech so much as intensity of opposition.
Another possibility is that people are confused, understandably, about when it is and isn’t legal to fire someone for their beliefs. Lots of Americans have the sense, I think, that you shouldn’t be able to fire someone just because you disagree with their worldview — and in some cases, as with religion, you can’t. Antidiscrimination laws prevent that. Many people hold their political beliefs as dearly as they hold their faith so they may assume that if you can’t lawfully fire someone for other aspects of their identity, like being a certain race or having a certain creed, you also can’t lawfully fire them for disliking Democrats so much that they’d, uh, make a “Planet of the Apes” joke about a prominent black liberal. I think there’s a broad perception across the population that it’s unfair to terminate someone for holding “wrong” opinions that don’t affect their job performance — although of course that sense fluctuates by circumstance. Trump thinks players who kneel during the anthem shouldn’t be able to find work in the NFL regardless of their performance on the field, right? The standard excuse among people who support banning anthem protests, that the protests are hurting the NFL’s bottom line and the league has to protect itself, logically applies just the same to ABC and its Roseanne predicament. Yet I wonder how many Trump voters who think ABC shouldn’t be allowed to cancel “Roseanne” in the name of averting a boycott also think the NFL should be able to bar anthem protests in the name of averting one.
Third possibility, I guess, is that people are completely out to lunch on free speech and really do believe one private entity’s rights should trump another private entity’s rights based purely upon which entity’s views are “better.” Hopefully we haven’t devolved civically that far yet but nothing would surprise me anymore.