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  • Corey Lee Wilson

Freedom of speech vs. political correctness

Although 58% of students opined that “hate speech” should continue to receive First Amendment protection, 41% take the opposite view. Sixty percent of college women surveyed believe that efforts to promote and enforce an inclusive society are more important than fulfilling the First Amendment. Only 28% of men share this view, while 71% of college men support free speech over inclusion. A minority of women (41%) concur.

Women are not alone in this opinion. African-American college students, more than those of other races, are more inclined to believe that inclusion should trump free speech. More than six in 10 African-American students believe that fostering inclusion and diversity should take priority over upholding the First Amendment. Forty-nine percent of Hispanic college students agree, whereas 42% of white students endorse this opinion. Fifty-eight percent of white students, and 50% of Hispanic students, place free speech as primary, with inclusion second.

There is also a religious dimension to the survey results: Eighty-one percent of Mormons, 71% of white evangelical Protestants, 64% of white mainline Protestants, and 62% of Catholic students believe that that upholding the First Amendment is more imperative than promoting inclusion. In contrast, 65% of Jewish students, 60% of students who profess Eastern faiths such Hinduism or Buddhism, and 54% of religiously unaffiliated students believe that inclusion is more critical.

Most Students Appear to Agree With the Supreme Court’s Rulings

When it comes to offensive or “hate speech,” most students appear to agree with the Supreme Court’s rulings declaring such speech to be protected by the First Amendment. The survey defined hate speech as “attacks [on] people based on their race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.” Nearly 60% of surveyed college students say that such speech should be protected, whereas 41% disagree.

However, opinions vary on this according to gender: 53% of college women opine that offensive speech should not be protected free speech, whereas 74% of college men answered that such speech should be protected by the First Amendment.

There is also a racial gap on the question: 62% of white collegians believe that offensive speech should be protected by the First Amendment, whereas 48% of black students concur. Fifty-one percent of black students deny that hate speech should be protected. Fifty-two percent of Hispanic students affirm First-Amendment protection of hate speech, while 47% do not.

There is also a significant difference in opinion based on sexual orientation. Sixty-four percent of heterosexual college students agree that hate speech should be protected, compared to 35% of gay and lesbian students.

Fifty-three percent of white students believe that it is never acceptable to attempt to bar speakers on campus from expressing their views while 41% of Hispanic, 38% of black, and 37% of Asian Pacific Islander students concur.

Sixty-five percent of white male students believe shouting down speakers (the “heckler’s veto”) is never acceptable; 45% of white female students agree.

Universities have not only failed to stand up to those who limit debate, they have played a part in encouraging them. The modish commitment to so-called diversity replaces the ideal of guaranteed equal treatment of individuals with guaranteed group preferences in hiring and curricular offerings.



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