Americans fervently believe in equal justice for all, not just under law but within public institutions such as the media as well, polls have shown. And yet, one recent poll leads to a disturbing conclusion: That America is increasingly turning into a two-tiered system of justice based on politics and beliefs.
The Golden/TIPP Poll (TIPP is also Issues & Insights’ polling partner) asked 1,310 voters online this summer the following question: “Generally speaking, do you agree or disagree with the statement: “There is a two-tiered system of justice in America depending on your political affiliation and ideology?”
The results of the poll, which had a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points, were lopsided: 63% agreed either “strongly” (28%) or “somewhat” (35%) that America is moving toward a two-tiered system of justice. Just 17% said they either disagreed “somewhat” (11%) or “strongly” (6%). (Numbers may not add up perfectly due to rounding of the data).
Surprisingly, agreement was broad across multiple demographic categories, with males (68%), females (59%), Whites (61%), Blacks and Hispanics (68%), Democrats (72%), Republicans (63%), and Independents (60%) all in accord. No group was below 50%.
But the answers changed and the consensus weakens when people were specifically asked whether “people who hold your political/religious/cultural ideas, beliefs and values receive equal treatment in America” for each of three major institutions in American life: “the media,” “social media,” and “under the law.”
Take the media. Overall, the split was nearly equal, with 42% agreeing they received equal treatment, and 43% disagreeing.
The political split was far wider.
Among Democrats, 62% agree that their views receive equal treatment by the media. That compares with just 29% for Republicans and 33% for independents. Conversely, only 27% of Democrats disagreed that they received equal treatment, while 60% of GOP voters and 52% of independents disagreed.
Just 35% of women agreed that their beliefs and values got equal treatment from the media, compared with 50% of men. Also, just 39% of White Americans said their views were treated equally, compared to 50% for Blacks and Hispanics.
And a sizeable split could be seen among urban dwellers (55% agree, 34% disagree), suburbanites (40% agree, 46% disagree), and rural Americans (32% agree to 51% disagree).
For the social media, a more-or-less similar split emerged, with 57% of Democrats saying they got a fair shake in the social media, compared to just 26% of Republicans and 32% of independents.
Finally, “under the law,” once again showed a split sense of equal treatment, with 60% of Dems, but only 37% of Republicans and 38% of independents agreeing they were treated equally under the law.
Why do a significant share of Americans, mostly in the center and right side of the political spectrum, believe they receive unfair treatment in the media and under the law?
And how has this idea of two-tiered treatment under the law and within the media arisen? Is it just political paranoia, or something more substantive?
One need only look to President Joe Biden’s widely criticized “Soul of the Nation” speech last week, in which he suggested that the millions of people who voted for President Donald Trump in 2020 “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.“
His harsh remarks, many commentators on both the left and right agreed, were out of bounds, and certain to further widen the growing cultural, social and political differences that have led to some bitter disputes and even violence.
The discrepant treatment of Jan. 6 rioters and the BLM and Antifa rioters is another factor.
Jan. 6 invaders of the Capitol building have been held for over a year and in some cases allegedly seriously mistreated. Some of the estimated 903 people charged with crimes received harsh sentences for their behavior.
Those riots caused over $2 billion in damage across the nation and led to an estimated 30 deaths or more, yet few were held to account for the violence.
The difference in treatment within the media, both news and opinion outlets and social media, is even more glaring.
What does it say when the federal government appears to be at war with half of its citizens, the great majority of them law-abiding, tax-paying, hard-working pillar of their own communities?
Or when social media censors anyone who disagrees with the left on climate change, LGBTQ issues, woke speech or any number of other issues?
Or when the president of the United States deems MAGA followers of Donald Trump to be “semi-fascists” for preferring the former president’s policies to what the Democratic Party has to offer?
Perhaps harder still is the well-established fact that much if not most of the so-called mainstream media lean to the left in their political orientation, and routinely show bias in their coverage and hiring.
With 62% of Americans according to a recent Rasmussen poll now saying “fake news” and media bias are problems and are growing worse, it’s become a major issue. So has the routine daily left-wing bias of major outlets, which no longer even pretend to be fair or strive to be objective in their coverage.
Each month, I&I/TIPP publishes polling data on this topic and others of broad public interest. TIPP’s reputation for excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.