Poll: 53% Of College Students Say ‘Offensive’ Speech Should Be Banned; 19% Support Violence

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Poll: 53% Of College Students Say ‘Offensive’ Speech Should Be Banned; 19% Support Violence

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A majority of U.S. college students believe it is OK to ban offensive speech and to disrupt speeches with which they disagree.

Those conclusions were among several disturbing findings from a Sept. 18 Brookings Institution survey that shows college students have little or no respect for free speech or the First Amendment.

“A surprisingly large fraction of students believe it is acceptable to act—including resorting to violence—to shut down expression they consider offensive,” study author John Villasenor wrote.

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Brookings surveyed 1,500 current undergraduate students.

“Freedom of expression is deeply imperiled on U.S. campuses,” Villasenor observed. “In fact, despite protestations to the contrary (often with statements like ‘we fully support the First Amendment, but…’), freedom of expression is clearly not, in practice, available on many campuses, including many public campuses that have First Amendment obligations.”

Among the findings:

  • 19 percent of undergraduate students believe it is OK to use violence to keep a controversial speaker off campus.
  • 51 percent of students say it is OK to disrupt a speech with which they disagree. Sixty-two percent of campus Democrats believe it is fine to disrupt a speech.
  • 62 percent of students say groups should be legally required to include speakers with opposing views at their events.
  • 53 percent of students believe authorities should prohibit speech on campus that is considered offensive or biased.
  • Only 47 percent of undergraduates say campus administrators should create an open learning environment that allows all points of view.

“Among many current college students there is a significant divergence between the actual and perceived scope of First Amendment freedoms,” Villasenor wrote. “More specifically, with respect to the questions explored above, many students have an overly narrow view of the extent of freedom of expression.”

Brookings polled students in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

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