Poll: Campus Free Speech Security Drops 25-Points Among Conservative College Students

Students protest against free speech at Middlebury College (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
AP Photo/Lisa Rathke

Conservative college students across the country feel free speech protections on campus have dropped 25 percent since 2019, according to a Knight Foundation-Ipsos poll.

The poll found that the feeling of free speech protection among college students dropped among all self-reported political affiliations between 2019 and 2021, with Democrats shifting from 63 percent to 61 percent (two points), independents moving from 59 percent to 46 percent (13 points), and Republicans dropping from 52 percent to 27 percent (25 points).

NBC News surmised that the feeling among Republican students “might be attributable to right-leaning news media and politicians paying more attention to what they perceive as left-leaning, ‘woke’ behavior.” But as Breitbart News has reported, universities tend to stifle free speech, or at least not do as much to protect the speech, of conservative students and groups.

Indeed, the poll also revealed an 11 percent overall increase (54 percent to 65 percent) in the perception that the college campus climate “stifles free expression” from 2016 to 2021. This sentiment crossed political affiliation as well, with more than 60 percent of Democrats, independents, and Republicans agreeing.

The poll, however, also reported a high level of importance placed on free speech protections for college students across gender, racial, and ethnic groups. In aggregate, 84 percent of students believe “free speech in our democracy” is either “extremely” or “very” important.

White students and female students clock in at a rate of 85 percent believing in free speech protections, whereas male students agreed at 83 percent, and “non-white” students — black, Hispanic, and Asian — said 80 percent.

Despite this widespread agreement, there was still quite a bit of room among students about certain types of speech that were acceptable to restrict. Chief among these was “offensive racial slurs,” which 67 percent of students said colleges “should restrict.”

Thirty-four percent of students said colleges should restrict clothing with Confederate flags, 19 percent said colleges should restrict “expressing political views that are upsetting or offensive to certain groups,” and ten percent said they should restrict presidential campaign posters.

The poll was taken between July 30 and August 16, 2021, with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.

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