A majority of college students support the First Amendment in theory, but not in practice, a new survey shows.
Yale’s 2018 Buckley Program Survey showed 79 percent of undergraduates still say that freedom of speech is important to society. Nearly 60 percent also acknowledged that hate speech is protected under the First Amendment.
However, large majorities also supported school policies and protests that work against fostering free speech.
Nearly 60 percent advocated for campuses to ban speakers who have a history of hate speech, while 62 percent believe hate speech should be censored by social media platforms.
Most students said that physical violence was a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to pushing back against hate speech, but 33 percent believed it would be justified. A plurality also agreed that shouting or disrupting a speaker in any way should be considered justified in some circumstances.
College campuses are becoming virtually synonymous with a breakdown in public discourse. The past few years have seen hundreds of viral videos where activists are yelling, disrupting or fighting with speakers or fellow students over political issues.
Yet, while students are pushing for controversial figures to be banned or otherwise sidelined through policies or protests, there’s evidence that discourse is still working. A majority said they’ve been successfully persuaded after listening to a point of view different from their own.
• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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