Conservatives want ‘free speech’ to trump conservative values

A new survey finds that Republican voters are much more likely to support the freedom to express their political beliefs on social media than they are to support “religious liberty” laws.

The National Review Online survey of 1,500 voters found that 61% of Republicans, while just 18% of Democrats, believe that the right to express unpopular views is a right protected by the First Amendment.

This is a significant difference from previous surveys, in which only 12% of GOP voters and 14% of Democratic voters favored religious freedom.

“The survey also shows that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe that a person’s right to exercise religion in public can be violated when that person disagrees with the tenets of the religion,” wrote NRO Senior Editor Jonah Goldberg in an editorial accompanying the poll.

“In contrast, Democrats are more divided on this question than Republicans are.”

In addition, the survey found that a majority of Republican voters think that the government should “impose penalties” on churches and other places of worship that refuse to participate in same-sex marriages, a view that is shared by only 29% of non-religious voters.

This view is shared most strongly by white evangelical Protestants, a group that supports religious freedom laws.

More broadly, the poll also found that Republicans and non-Republicans are significantly more likely in their political views to favor “religious freedom” laws, even when those laws conflict with the beliefs of the religious leaders.

“The vast majority of Republicans think that churches and religious institutions can use their religious freedom protections to discriminate against LGBT people,” Goldberg wrote.

“But more than two-thirds of nonreligious Republicans, and more than one-third of white evangelical Republicans, also think that such protection is permissible.”

The poll also shows the partisan divide in the support for these religious freedoms.

Republicans, who are more supportive of religious freedom than Democrats, are more than twice as likely as Democrats to support religious freedom and more likely, on average, to say that churches should be able to refuse service to LGBT people.

But there is a big partisan divide when it comes to the role of religion in society.

The poll found that about one-in-ten Democrats and more specifically those who identify as Black and Hispanic believe that religion should play a role in society, and nearly three-quarters of Republicans say that religious freedom is a fundamental right for the country.

White evangelical Protestants are the most supportive of such laws.

By a slim margin, they are more strongly supportive of laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act than non-white evangelical Protestants.

And white mainline Protestants, who have traditionally been a reliable Republican voting bloc, are also more likely and more supportive than their Catholic and Jewish peers of these laws.

The Religious Freedom Protection Act is supported by an overwhelming majority of nonwhite evangelicals, while only 36% of white Catholics and 21% of Jewish Catholics support it.