Over the past several years a disturbing trend has emerged on college campuses across the country. The rise of anti-free speech attitudes among millennials has been well-documented and is cause for great concern.
New evidence has emerged that the peak strength of this movement may finally have been reached, and it appears that the tides are turning.
According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 85 percent of Americans think free speech rights are more important than making sure no one is offended. Just 8 percent of respondents believe that it’s more important to make sure that no one is offended.
These results may represent a major change from polls conducted just a few years ago that found as much as 29 percent favored a ban on so-called hate speech. Still, the Rasmussen number of people supporting limits on free speech is significantly lower than what has been observed in other polls.
Is support for free speech among millennials rising?
In addition to that question, respondents were also polled on their opinions of Voltaire’s famous maxim “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” A whopping 73 percent of those polled agreed with the statement, and among those that did, 93 percent supported free speech rights above making sure no one is offended.
Just two years ago, another survey had found as much as 40 percent of millennials supported allowing the government to ban speech that might be offensive to minorities. Support of banning free speech was nearly fifty percent among millennials than boomers or gen-xers and four times higher than that of the silent generation.
If the most recent survey is to be believed, then something has clearly changed over the past couple years. Perhaps the backlash against anti-free speech attitudes, fueled by the disapproval of older generations, has had an effect on their younger counterparts. As this is the first poll to show such a dramatic shift in opinions of free speech, it’s uncertain whether it is an outlier or truly representative of a trend.
(Photo of First Amendment Monument by Flickr user dcwriterdawn used with permission.)