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U.S. students: We can't speak, someone will be offended

Staff Writer |
Sixty-one percent of U.S. college students agree that the climate on their campus prevents some people from expressing their views because others might find them offensive.

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In 2016, 54% of college students held this view. These results are based on a 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation survey of 3,014 randomly sampled U.S. college students about First Amendment issues.

The survey is an update of a nationally representative 2016 Knight Foundation/Newseum Institute/Gallup survey on the same topic.

Students' perceptions that their campus climate prevents people from speaking their minds are generally similar by gender, race and ideological self-identification.

However, students who identify as Democrats (63%) or independents (62%) are somewhat more likely than Republican students (53%) to think the climate at their college deters speech.

That is a reversal from 2016, when Republicans were more likely than Democrats to hold this view.

Other than Republicans, most key subgroups are more inclined now than in 2016 to agree the climate on their campus can inhibit expression.

Independents and blacks show slightly greater increases, 13 and 14 percentage points, respectively, than other subgroups.

While more students now agree that their campus climate stifles free speech, fewer students now (70%) than in 2016 (78%) favor having an open campus environment that allows all types of speech, even that which is offensive.

In contrast, 29% of students now, up from 22% in 2016, would rather campuses be "positive learning environments for all students" by prohibiting certain speech that is offensive or biased.

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