Are College Kids Really OK With Prohibiting Speech? This Poll Has The Answers

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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College students prefer an offense-free environment over an all-inclusive free speech environment, a poll released Monday revealed.

Fifty-three percent of students surveyed indicate they favor creating “a positive learning environment for all students by prohibiting certain speech or expression” more than an “open” environment inclusive of all speech, according to a Brookings Institution poll.

Republican students split nearly evenly, 53-47, between having an “open” environment and a “positive” one. On the other hand, 61 percent of Democratic students preferred a “positive” environment.

The Brookings Institution also sampled students’ opinions as they pertained to free speech and the acceptability of certain types of language.

Forty-four percent of students said “no” to a question on whether the First Amendment protects hate speech, while 39 percent of students said “yes;” 16 percent indicated they did not know. A plurality of Democrats — 41 percent — thought that the First Amendment did not protect hate speech, whereas 44 percent of Republicans asserted it did. Fifty-one percent of male students thought the First Amendment protected hate speech, however a majority of female students thought it did not.

“A student group opposed to the speaker disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker,” read another prompt on the survey. Male and Democrat poll participants tended to agree that this response was acceptable; Republican and female students tended to disagree.

A majority of students — regardless of party affiliation, gender, or studentship at a private or public college — believed organizations hosting an offensive speaker are legally required to simultaneously host a speaker with an opposing viewpoint.

The Brookings Institution sampled 1,500 students. Of the respondents, 70 percent are female and almost half of the total respondents identified as a Democrat.

This national poll mirrors results of a July poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University of students in Virginia. The university found that a majority of Virginia students valued the lack of a potential for discrimination over free speech on campus.

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