The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America

by | Nov 3, 2017

The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America

by | Nov 3, 2017

Americans Say Political Correctness Has Silenced Discussions Society Needs to Have; Most Have Views They’re Afraid to Share

Nearly three-fourths (71%) of Americans believe that political correctness has done more to silence important discussions our society needs to have. A little more than a quarter (28%) instead believe that political correctness has done more to help people avoid offending others.

The consequences are personal-58% of Americans believe the political climate today prevents them from saying things they believe. Democrats are unique, however, in that a slim majority (53%) do not feel the need to self-censor. Conversely, strong majorities of Republicans (73%) and independents (58%) say they keep some political beliefs to themselves.

Americans Oppose Hate Speech Bans but Say Hate Speech Is Morally Unacceptable

Most Americans (59%) think people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions in public, even those deeply offensive to other people. Forty percent (40%) think government should prevent hate speech in public. Nonetheless, an overwhelming majority (79%) agree that it is “morally unacceptable” to engage in hate speech against racial or religious groups. Thus, the public appears to distinguish between allowing offensive speech and endorsing it.

Despite this, the survey also found Americans willing to censor, regulate, or punish a wide variety of speech and expression they personally find offensive:

    • 51% of strong liberals say it’s “morally acceptable” to punch Nazis.
    • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
    • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people’s preferred gender pronouns.
    • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
    • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
    • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the national anthem.

Read the rest at the Cato Institute here.

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