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SURVEY REPORT: The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America

Attitudes about Free Speech, Campus Speech, Religious Liberty, and Tolerance of Political Expression

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October 31, 2017

As published by the CATO Institute. 

Americans Say Political Correctness Has Silenced Discussions Society Needs to Have; Most Have Views They’re Afraid to Share

Nearly three-fourths (71%) of Americans believe that political correctness has done more to silence important discussions our society needs to have. A little more than a quarter (28%) instead believe that political correctness has done more to help people avoid offending others.

The consequences are personal–58% of Americans believe the political climate today prevents them from saying things they believe. Democrats are unique, however, in that a slim majority (53%) do not feel the need to self-censor. Conversely, strong majorities of Republicans (73%) and independents (58%) say they keep some political beliefs to themselves.

Americans Oppose Hate Speech Bans but Say Hate Speech Is Morally Unacceptable

Most Americans (59%) think people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions in public, even those deeply offensive to other people. Forty percent (40%) think government should prevent hate speech in public. Nonetheless, an overwhelming majority (79%) agree that it is “morally unacceptable” to engage in hate speech against racial or religious groups. Thus, the public appears to distinguish between allowing offensive speech and endorsing it.

The CATO Institute published a full version of this report on October 31, 2017. To read the full report, click here

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