Survey Finds Support for First Amendment Declining Among College Students

Support for the First Amendment and free expression is declining among college students, according to a new survey.

The survey found that students are divided on whether it’s more important to promote an inclusive society that welcomes diverse groups or to protect the “extremes” of free speech.

It is important to note that the First Amendment was not aimed at protecting polite and agreeable speech — as that kind of speech does not need to be protected.

The Knight Foundation survey also found that views were sharply divided based on gender, race, sexual orientation, political affiliation and religion.


“The report showed that more than half (53 percent) of students favor protecting free speech rights, while nearly as many (46 percent) say it’s important to promote an inclusive and welcoming society. At the same time, 58 percent of students said that hate speech should continue to be protected under the First Amendment while 41 percent disagree. The report’s exploration of perceptions by race, gender, sexual orientation and religion further highlight stark differences in student views on these issues,” the accompanying report states.

They found that “nearly six in 10 college women say that promoting an inclusive society is the more important value, versus 28 percent of college men. Seventy-one percent of college men favor protecting free speech over inclusivity, while only 41 percent of college women express this view.”

While the majority of white students (58%) and half of Hispanic students (50%) believe that protecting free speech rights should be a higher priority than inclusivity, over six in ten black students disagree.

Religion was also a factor, as the majority of Christian students believe that free speech is more important than inclusivity, while religiously unaffiliated students, Jewish students and those from East Asian religions disagree.

“A majority of Mormon (81 percent), white evangelical Protestant (71 percent), white mainline Protestant (64 percent), and Catholic students (62 percent) say that protecting free speech is more important than promoting inclusivity. In contrast, a majority of Jewish students (65 percent), students who are members of East Asian religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism (60 percent), and religiously unaffiliated students (54 percent) say that promoting a welcoming, inclusive society is more important.”

You Might Like