The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America; Attitudes about Free Speech, Campus Speech, Religious Liberty, and Tolerance of Political Expression
Findings From the Cato Institute 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey
76 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2021
Date Written: October 31, 2017
Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans believe the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs. It follows that a solid majority (59%) of Americans think people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions in public, even those deeply offensive to others. On the other hand, 40% think government should prevent hate speech. 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 staunch 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
• 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
• 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
• 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Americans also can’t agree what speech is hateful, offensive, or simply a political opinion:
• 59% of liberals say it’s hate speech to say transgender people have a mental disorder; only 17% of conservatives agree.
• 39% of conservatives believe it’s hate speech to say the police are racist; only 17% of liberals agree.
• 80% of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say illegal immigrants should be deported; only 36% of conservatives agree.
• 87% of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say women shouldn’t fight in military combat roles, while 47% of conservatives agree.
• 90% of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say homosexuality is a sin, while 47% of conservatives agree.
Keywords: political expression, free speech, campus speech, political correctness
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