Survey: 4 Out of 5 College Students Believe In Free Speech

(Photo: blogsellers)

(Photo: blogsellers)

A newly-released Gallup Survey shows that while the majority of American college students support free speech on campus, many say that “hate speech” and speech meant to intentionally offend people based on a portion of their identities should be limited.

The full report, conducted by Gallup for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found that 78% of colleges students in the United States believe their campus to be a serious place where various manners of speech and viewpoints can be freely expressed.

“In principle, college students really do favor environments where one can be exposed to all sorts of views,” the Knight Foundation’s vice president of learning and impact, Sam Gill, said in a phone interview.

However, the report also found 22% of college students, or almost one in four, said the college experience should include protection from biased speech, “hate speech,” or other views that could offend someone, reports Eric Owens for The Daily Caller.  A separation was made between political speech and hate speech, with students believing speech that could offend a particular group of people should be stopped, but not that of opposing political viewpoints.

While 70% of students said they believed their peers should not have the ability to stop the news media from covering campus protests, they were not as certain when specific situations were placed in front of them.  Close to half of student participants said reporters should not be given access if the report would be biased, with 49% of students believing so. 48% supported restrictions if protesters asked to be left alone, and 44% supported reduced access if students wanted to tell their story themselves.

Black and female students were more likely to accept the restrictions, writes Daniel Victor for The New York Times.

In addition, students who believe themselves to be Republican or politically independent were found to be more likely to approve of free speech than Democratic students.

A small majority of students, 54%, believe their professors and the administration to be squashing free speech by preventing certain people from expressing their views in an effort to protect those who could become offended.

Most surprisingly, the total of 78% of US college students who support fully-free speech is actually higher than the percentage of adults in the country who hold the same viewpoints.  In all, 66% of American adults support completely free speech.

According to the survey, college students in the country believe that their rights are fully protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, even more so than the average person who is not an undergraduate.  The survey found that while 73% of college students believe their right to freedom of speech is protected, only 56% of the American public not enrolled in college hold the same beliefs.

Among racial groups, black college students were found to be the most likely to believe their viewpoints, in addition to their right to peaceably assemble and protest, was not secure, with only 39% of black students saying they believed they could assemble without fear.  Meanwhile, 70% of white college students held the same belief.

The survey was created based on phone interviews with 3,072 college students in the United States, as well as 2,031 adults.

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

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