Survey: 20% of College Students Support Using Violence to Shut Down Speakers

Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

A survey of college students reveals that 20 percent of students believe it is okay to use violence to shut down an offensive speaker.

Motivated by what he calls the “narrowing window of permissible topics” on campus, Brookings Institute Fellow and UCLA Professor John Villasenor set out to uncover exactly how college students felt about the right to free expression on campus. His findings were somewhat shocking.

In a survey of 1,500 current American college students by the Brookings Institute, 44 percent of respondents said that they don’t believe hate speech is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. According to the survey, women are more likely to believe that hate speech is not protected by the Constitution, with 49 percent of female respondents claiming that the First Amendment does not protect hate speech as opposed to 38 percent of male respondents.

62 percent of left-wing respondents claimed that they believe students should be able to shout over controversial speakers so that they cannot be heard. 39 percent of right-leaning respondents claimed the same.

Perhaps more shockingly, 20 percent of respondents said that the use of violence is okay when shutting down a controversial speaker. “A student group opposed to the speaker uses violence to prevent the speaker from speaking,” the prompt read. “Do you agree or disagree that the student group’s actions are acceptable?”

62 percent of respondents claimed that universities should require the presence of a speaker with an opposing viewpoint when an invited guest is deemed excessively offensive or harmful. 53 percent of respondents claimed that they would prefer their campus to restrict speech that can be considered “offensive or biased against certain groups of people.”


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