Columnist

My Friday column mentioned some survey data suggesting that (despite what you may have heard) liberals lack a monopoly on illiberalism. Here’s more detail on one of those surveys, conducted for a Knight Foundation report on attitudes toward free expression and First Amendment rights.

This year, Gallup surveyed 3,072 U.S. college students who collectively attend 240 U.S. four-year colleges. The results show that on multiple measures, self-identified Democrats and Republicans are about equally amenable to restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press. And even in cases where Democrats are more open to limiting freedom of expression, there’s still a large share of Republicans who feel the same way.

Take this question about whether colleges should be able to restrict speech “expressing political views that are upsetting or offensive to certain groups.”


Source: “Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults.” Survey conducted by Gallup Feb. 29-March 15, 2016. Responses may not add to 100% because “don’t know” and refusals to answer are not shown.

Roughly a quarter of Democrats, independents and Republicans said colleges should be able to restrict such speech.

Here’s a related question about whether college administrators should be policing costumes:


Source: “Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults.” Survey conducted by Gallup Feb. 29-March 15, 2016. Responses may not add to 100% because “don’t know” and refusals to answer are not shown.

Democrats are much more supportive of school policies that restrict what costumes students can wear — but such policies are advocated by a majority of Republicans and independents, too.

The survey also asked students about press coverage. It found that a quarter of Republicans and just over a quarter of Democrats and independents believe students should be able to prevent reporters from covering protests held on college campuses.


Source: “Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults.” Survey conducted by Gallup Feb. 29-March 15, 2016. Responses may not add to 100% because “don’t know” and refusals to answer are not shown.

There were also several questions about rationales invoked when denying the press access to a public event (access that is guaranteed by the First Amendment) and whether those justifications are “legitimate.” These rationales included a belief that the press will be “unfair”; the fact that “people at the protest or public gathering want to tell their own story on the Internet and social media”; and that participants “say they have a right to be left alone.”

Every one of these reasons was deemed legitimate by at least 4 in 10 members of each political group.


Source: “Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults.” Survey conducted by Gallup Feb. 29-March 15, 2016.

Here’s another thing college students of all three partisan identifications tend to agree on: that people on their campuses are biting their tongues for fear of being seen as offensive.


Source: “Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults.” Survey conducted by Gallup Feb. 29-March 15, 2016. Responses may not add to 100% because of rounding, or because “don’t know” and refusals to answer are not shown.