A newly-released Gallup survey indicates that a solid majority of students at America’s colleges and universities supports free speech on campus. However, a strong contingent of students wants to limit “hate speech” and speech that intentionally offend people based on some aspect of their identities.
A full and extensive report about the poll, which Gallup conducted for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, shows that 78 percent of U.S. college students believe their campuses should be serious, grownup places where students experience all manner of speech and myriad different viewpoints.
At the same time, 22 percent of America’s college students — or almost 1 in every 4 — expressed a belief that college should be a gentle hothouse where students are carefully protected from biased speech, “hate speech” and offensive views that might offend their delicate sensibilities.
Students who identify as Republican and politically independent students are generally more likely to support broad free speech than are students who identify as Democrats.
American college students also believe their professors and administrators stifle free speech currently. A slight majority of students, 54 percent, say their campuses prevent certain people from expressing themselves to protect other people from being offended.
Perhaps bit surprisingly, given the censorship squabbles constantly emanating from U.S. college campuses, the 78 percent of American college students who broadly endorse free speech is higher than the percentage of American adults in general. Overall, just 66 percent of American adults in general endorse broad, unhindered free speech, according to the survey.
The survey found that American college students are confident that their several rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution are very secure — much more confident than the average American who is not currently an undergraduate. For example, 73 percent of U.S. college students think their right to free speech is secure while just 56 percent of the America’s non-college-going public feels similarly secure.
Black college students are especially likely to fear that their right to peaceably assemble and protest is not secure, according to the Gallup survey. Just 39 percent of black college students feel able to assemble without fear.
On the other hand, 70 percent of America’s white college students are confident they can assemble peacefully.