In a tweet Tuesday, Trump suggested that people who burn the flag should risk “consequences,” possibly including the loss of citizenship.
Burning a flag is legal, protected speech in the U.S. Although some lawmakers have called for a constitutional amendment to criminalize the practice, Trump’s suggested punishments stand out as exceptionally draconian.
“To me it is deeply troubling that the person who is going to become the most powerful government official in the United States doesn’t understand the first thing about the First Amendment — which is you can’t punish people for expressing dissent — and also doesn’t seem to understand that citizenship is a constitutional right that cannot be taken away, period, under any circumstances,” David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law professor, told The New York Times.
Although a majority of Americans recognize that flag burning is currently legal, according to the HuffPost/YouGov results, just 16 percent think that flag burning is an appropriate way to protest. By an 11-point margin, 48 percent to 37 percent, they favor passing a constitutional amendment that would make it illegal to burn the American flag.
But by a 6-point margin, 44 percent to 38 percent, those polled say that they’d oppose punishing people who burn the American flag by sentencing them to a year in jail.
And a broad majority of Americans dislike the idea of stripping U.S. citizenship from those who burn the flag. Just 24 percent favor such an idea, while 58 percent oppose it.
Even people who voted for Trump, who largely favor criminalizing flag burning and introducing jail sentences, say by an 18-point margin that burning a flag shouldn’t put someone’s citizenship at risk.
The subject of burning flags hasn’t come up much in recent years, so there’s not a lot of current polling on the issue. As The Washington Post notes, past surveys have varied somewhat ― a 2011 State of the First Amendment survey found most Americans opposed a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning, while 2006 surveys from Gallup/USA Today and from CNN both found majority support for such an amendment.
Those past polls, however, didn’t ask about how violators of any new laws should be punished. The latest results suggest that, while Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of burning the flag, they’re also unwilling to endorse severe measures against those who do so.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 1 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.