My Tuesday column, about the use of trigger warnings, mentions some other survey data suggesting that millennials may be more amenable to limits on speech than earlier generations were. Here are the sources I was referring to.
Pew Research Center recently published poll results showing that four in 10 millennial Americans believe the government should be able to prevent people from publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups. That’s higher than any other age group, as well as the highest of any major demographic group the organization published results for.
Here likewise are responses to another Pew question about whether the government should be able to stop people from making statements that are “offensive to your religion or beliefs.” Once again, millennials are much more likely than other age groups to support such speech limits, with about one in three holding this view.
Unfortunately, Pew did not have historical data available for comparison, so we don’t know for sure whether “kids these days” actually hold more illiberal views about free speech than did kids of yore.
The best time-series data I’ve been able to find so far come from the General Social Survey (via my colleague Scott Clement, who also wrote about historical trends in attitudes toward free speech in March).
This survey includes a related question: “There are always some people whose ideas are considered bad or dangerous by other people. Consider a person who believes that blacks are genetically inferior. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community claiming that blacks are inferior, should he be allowed to speak, or not?”
This question has been asked almost every year since 1976. That first year, young people represented the age group most open to allowing such speech. That is, among respondents age 18 to 34, 73 percent said such a person should be able to speak. By 2014, though, the share had fallen to 55 percent. See the orange line below:
That said, you might notice that — unlike the latest Pew findings — this survey didn’t find much of an age gap on this question in the 2014 survey wave. The General Social Survey found slightly greater support for allowing such speech among 35-to-69-year-olds, but respondents age 70-plus gave answers almost identical to those of millennials. So, less of a clear age trend for this series. Mostly there seems to have been convergence in views over time.