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Buckley Program Releases Seventh Annual College Student Survey

For Immediate Release

October 14, 2021


Contact: Lauren Noble, Lauren@buckleyprogram.com



Buckley Program Releases Seventh Annual College Student Survey


Half of Respondents Feel Intimidated in Sharing Ideas

Strong Majorities Support the Constitution & First Amendment Rights



NEW HAVEN, CT – The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program today released the findings of its seventh annual survey measuring the opinions of college students across the U.S, who expressed concerns about free speech and intellectual diversity on their respective campuses.


Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, this national survey of 800 undergraduate students attending four-year colleges and universities shows that strong majorities of students continue to believe the Constitution and the First Amendment need to be followed and respected.


At the same time, half of all students (50%) surveyed say they have often felt intimidated in sharing their ideas, opinions, or beliefs in the classroom because they are different from those of their professors or classmates.


Disturbingly, forty percent (40%) of students say they believe it is appropriate to shout down or disrupt an on-campus speaker with whom they disagree, and more than a third (36%) said they agree that violence can be justified to prevent a person from using hate speech or making racially charged comments. Nearly four in ten students (39%) think that political opinions from fellow students they find offensive should be reported to school administrators.


“This survey is the latest evidence of a disturbing trend in higher education,” said Buckley Program Executive Director Lauren Noble. “Instead of being places where the full spectrum of ideas can be debated and explored, college campuses are too often rife with fear, intimidation, and self-censorship. This is a concerning situation for students across the political spectrum and should trouble us all."


The following are key findings form the survey:


Supporting the Constitution, First Amendment, Free Speech, and Intellectual Diversity


· Fifty-five percent (55%) say the Constitution is a very important document that needs to be followed and respected, compared to 31% who say it is outdated. The “important” response is up slightly from 52% last year, but lower than the high of 63% from 2019.


· By an overwhelming margin of 80% to 13%, students say the First Amendment is an important amendment that still needs to be followed and respected rather than it being outdated and can no longer be applied in today’s society.


· When given a choice about which is more important, by a two to one margin, students say it is more important for their school to encourage free speech and intellectual diversity (62%) than to prevent offensive or insensitive dialogue (31%).


· Forty-seven percent (47%) agree that “hate speech, no matter how racist or bigoted, is still technically protected under the First Amendment as free speech.”


Expression in the Classroom


· Fifty percent (50%) say they have often felt intimidated in sharing their ideas, opinions, or beliefs in class because they were different than those of their professors, while 45% have not often felt intimidated. Sixty-two percent (62%) of conservative students say they have often felt intimidated, compared to 47% of moderate students and 46% of liberal students.


· An identical 50% have often felt intimidated in sharing their ideas, opinions, or beliefs because they were different than those of their classmates or peers.


· When given a list of hot-button issues, students are most likely to cite politics (38%) and race (30%) as the ones they feel most uncomfortable speaking about and are off limits for discussion. Abortion (26%), religion (26%) and sexual preference (25%) were next highest, with gender being the lowest at 19%.


Intimidation on Campus


· Four in ten (40%) agree that “it is sometimes appropriate to shout down or disrupt a speaker on my campus.” The majority (53%) of liberal students agrees while 57% of moderate students and 56% of conservative students disagree.


· Thirty-six percent (36%) agree that violence can be justified to prevent a person from using hate speech or making racially charged comments. Ideologically, agreement is highest among liberals at 41%, followed by 37% of moderate students and 23% of conservative students.


Students’ Views on Race


· By a 49% to 42% margin, students believe America is inextricably linked to white supremacy and most minorities remain excluded from the American promise of equality rather than believing America is moving forward and the promise of equality continues to be extended to more people.


· Seven in ten (71%) agree that “systemic racism is a big problem in society today and white people still contribute to it, whether they realize it or not,” while 21% disagree. Nine in ten (90%) liberal students agree compared to 66% of moderate students and 51% of conservative students.


The full survey can be found here and a memo reviewing the results can be found here.


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