In a survey that, on its face, may make some undergraduates scamper back to their “safe spaces,” Pew Research Center finds a majority of Americans think too many people are easily offended by mere words.
According to the poll, 59 percent of Americans say “too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use.” Another 39 percent, however, say “people need to be more careful about the language they use to avoid offending people with different backgrounds.”
While overall more Americans are tired of knee-jerk sensitivity to language, Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to believe people should watch what they say. According to Pew while 78 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Independents say people are too easily offended, just 37 percent of Democrats agree, instead 61 percent of Democrats say people need to be more careful with their words.
“The partisan gap is reflected in starkly divergent views among Trump and Clinton supporters,” Pew notes. “By a ratio of about five-to-one (83% to 16%), more Trump supporters say too many people are easily offended. Among Clinton supporters, 59% think people need to exercise caution in speaking to avoid offending others, while 39% think too many are easily offended.”
The offense question breaks down demographically as well. Although majorities of both men and women say people are too easily offended, more men (68 percent) held that view than did women (51 percent).
Black Americans were the group most likely to believe people need to be aware of their language. As Pew’s survey reveals, while 67 percent of blacks say people need to watch what they say to avoid offending people, just 32 percent of white and 49 percent of blacks agree.
Interestingly, while majorities in every age group say people are too easily offended older Americans — 65 years and older — were more likely than younger people to say people should be more careful with their language to avoid offending people.
Additionally, majorities across all education levels say people are too easily offended. Pew, however, found a quirk in the results — namely that Republicans with less education are more likely to say people should be more careful with their language than Republicans with more education. On the other side of the equation, Democrats with more education were more likely to hold that opinion than were Democrats with less education.
“Among Republicans, 28% of those with no more than a high school education say people need to be more careful with language, double the share of Republican college graduates (14%) who say this,” Pew reports. It added, “Seven-in-ten Democratic college graduates say people need to be more careful with language, compared with 57% of those who have not completed college.”
The Pew survey of 4,602 adults was conducted from June 7 to July 5.