Poll: Majority of College Students Want Restrictions on Free Speech


A new poll has found that most college students in the United States believe free speech on college campuses should be restricted, with almost one-third saying the First Amendment is outdated.

McLaughlin and Associates was commissioned by The William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale to ask 800 undergraduate students across the country about their views relating to a number of free speech topics.

According to the results, the majority of students who responded felt that there need to be more restrictions made on free speech, especially any speech that could be viewed as hateful or unacceptable.  Although 70% of students considered free speech to be “very important,” with an additional 26% saying it is “somewhat important,” 51% reported that they support the use of “speech codes” on college campuses in order to control what students are allowed to say.  Only 36% opposed the idea.

In addition, 63% supported the use of “trigger warnings” by professors while in class.  These warnings would come before certain material, such as a discussion on racism, allowing students to avoid being “triggered” into experiencing any emotional trauma, writes Blake Neff for The Daily Caller.

On the subject of the First Amendment, the majority answered that it protects hate speech the same as it does any other speech.  Meanwhile, another 35% said the opposite, claiming that they believed hate speech is not protected under the First Amendment.  21% believed the amendment to be “outdated” and in need of an overhaul.

Although only 10% of respondents said they felt more regulation of hate speech was necessary, including the possibility of punishment by the government, more tolerance was seen when individual situations were described.  In terms of regulations on campus, 52% said those who have a history of hate speech should not be allowed to speak on campus, and 72% felt that students or faculty should be disciplined for using language considered to be “racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive.”

Concerning political beliefs, liberal students were 30% more likely to consider the First Amendment “outdated,” with 56% feeling that political cartoons poking fun at certain religious or ethnic groups should be banned in comparison to 36% of conservatives.  Meanwhile, conservatives were found to be slightly more likely to feel that those with a history of hate speech should be banned.

In all, 63% of students see political correctness as an issue on their campus.

A separate report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that over 55% of the 437 schools surveyed have incredibly restrictive, “red light” speech codes that outline prohibited speech.  That rate does vary by state, with over 85% of surveyed schools in Missouri reporting having such codes in place, while only 31% of schools surveyed in Virginia have “red light” codes in place.

Virginia took legislative action in April 2014 in an effort to protect students’ freedom of speech when a bill was signed into law by Governor Terry McAuliffe designating certain outdoor areas within the public college campuses as public forums.  The law also prohibits student expression to be limited to “free speech zones.”