A new poll revealed that a disturbing percentage of college students are in favor of using violence to stop a campus speech. The survey, by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Real Clear Education, and College Pulse polled 20,000 students from 55 different colleges, found that nearly one-fifth of college students believe it is acceptable to use violent means to shut down speech that they may agree with or deem offensive.
The poll found that 18% of college students approve using violence in certain situations to stifle campus speech. That number rises to 21% at Ivy League schools, and drops to 15% at colleges in the Southeastern Conference.
"Liberal students expressed a higher acceptance of violence," FIRE explained. "Students identifying as extremely liberal said violence to stop a speech or event from occurring on campus was 'always' or 'sometimes' acceptable at a rate double than students identifying as extremely conservative: 13% to 6%. More than a quarter of extremely liberal respondents said it is 'rarely' acceptable, compared to 8% of extremely conservative respondents."
"One quarter of atheist students and black students expressed some level of acceptance for violence, as did 27% of LGBT students," the poll revealed.
Over 60% of extreme liberals proclaim that it is "always" or "sometimes" acceptable to shout down a speaker, compared to only 15% for extreme conservatives.
The hostile atmosphere against speech deemed as offensive or inflammatory has caused conservative college students to self-censor to avoid conflict. While 55% of liberal students self-censor, 72% of conservative students feel the need to self-censor.
More than 40% of college students said the topic of race is a difficult topic to have an open and honest discussion about. There were 45% of students who said abortion would be a problematic topic to broach.
When it comes to guest speakers appearing at colleges and universities, there is a bias against conservative orators. The FIRE poll found that an overwhelming 87% of students would welcome former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak, but only 69% would allow President Donald Trump to speak on campus.
Conservative students were much more tolerant in hearing speakers who they disagree with politically, and 71% of strong Republicans support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden coming to speak at their campus. Meanwhile, only 49% of strong Democrats would allow President Trump to speak at their college.
The research also provided metrics for FIRE to name the best and worst colleges for free speech.
The best colleges for free speech:
- The University of Chicago
- Kansas State University
- Texas A&M University
- University of California, Los Angeles
- Arizona State University
The worst colleges for free speech:
- Syracuse University
- Dartmouth College
- Louisiana State University
- University of Texas
- DePauw University
FIRE ranked the worst free speech higher learning institutions by "rating for colleges that explicitly prioritize other values above free speech."