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Report: Students divided on free speech vs. hate speech on college campuses

A Knight Foundation report, released Monday, gives some fascinating insight into current college students’ views on the First Amendment, hate speech and which forms of protection should be protected on campuses.

The issue may be particularly of interest in North Carolina, where UNC students are rallying over the final destiny of the Silent Sam Confederate monument, facing off with white supremacist groups who have vandalized campus sites with hate speech and calling for changes in policing policies around protests.

The study polled more than 4,000 full-time, four-year degree seeking students through a confidential mobile app rather than telephone interviews.

A clear majority — 58 percent of respondents — said they do not favor restrictions on free speech, even for hate speech defined as expression that “attacks people based on their race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.” But 41 percent said they do not believe hate speech should be protected under the First Amendment.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the breakdown by gender shows some important differences in sentiment on questions of diversity.

On the question of protecting hate speech, white men were most likely to say speech should be completely unrestricted.

Fewer than half of black respondents — 48 percent — agreed with that. Among female respondents, that number was 46 percent. Only 45 percent of Jewish students agreed and among gay and lesbian students and gender non-binary students the number was even lower — 35 percent and 29 percent respectively.

A full 71 percent of male respondents said they believe protecting free speech is more important than “fostering an inclusive society.”

More than half of female respondents — 58 percent — said inclusivity is more important.

Read the full report — and information about methodology — here.

 

 

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