Free speech in America may be under its greatest attack yet from all sides.
In a new poll conducted by the Cato Institute, Americans of numerous backgrounds were questioned about topics surrounding free speech. On a positive note, a majority of those polled, or 59 percent, believe that people should be allowed to publicly express unpopular and even offensive opinions. Forty percent took the opposite view.
Additionally, 71 percent of those polled said that political correctness has helped silence important discussions, and 58 percent said that the current political climate prevented them from saying things that they believe.
Despite these alleged stances on principle, some of the particulars were more troubling.
Republicans want to curb free speech and fire football players who don’t stand for the national anthem
For example, a majority of Republicans, or 53 percent expressed a desire to strip citizenship from those who burn the American flag. And 65 percent of Republicans favor the firing of NFL players who do not stand for the national anthem. Even 47 of Republicans would favor a ban on building new mosques.
Democrats want employers to punish employees for exercising free speech on Facebook
On the other side, a bare majority of Democrats, or 51 percent, would support a law requiring the use of transgender people’s preferred pronouns, and a an every higher majority of Democrats say that employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts. In addition, a majority of those who call themselves “strong liberals” believe it is morally acceptable to punch Nazis.
The poll also showed sharp divisions among the races on the feelings on hate speech. Sixty-five percent of black Americans feel that supporting the right to say racist things is as bad as holding racist views. Among Hispanic Americans, 61 believed similarly. A majority of black and Hispanic Americans – 75 percent and 72 percent, respectively, feel that hate speech is violence.
But a healthy majority of Americans agree that a ban on hate speech is untenable
There are some bright signs: An 82 percent majority of Americans agree that a ban on hate speech would be untenable due to there being no consistent definition of what “hate speech” means.
Nonetheless, the survey revealed some ugly truths about the state of free speech in America.
(Screenshot from Cato Institute report, “The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America.”)