Censoring Free Speech On Campus? Most College Students Say ‘Sure’

Intelligent.com, an online magazine centered around helping students make informed choices about their college education, has been studying how our increasingly polarized politics has been shaping college campuses, releasing a series of student surveys on the topic throughout this year. Nearly half of students, for example, told the magazine they may leave colleges located in states with abortion bans while 50% students were afraid to express their political opinions in the classroom. Further, 45% believe their professors have a political agenda, and 31% have been ridiculed for stating a political view.

In its most recent survey, Intelligent.com wanted to gauge the political climate on campus ahead of the midterm elections. What it found: Hypocrisy.

“The data reveals hypocritical beliefs on both sides of the political spectrum, as the majority of students say they strongly believe in free speech, but around two-thirds would choose to censor the other side’s political views on campus,” the survey report reads.

“However, results also showed a surprising level of support for removing all types of political views from campus, even the participants’ own, suggesting that students are tired of politics seeping into campus life.”


It’s easy to support free speech when you agree with the speech being made. More difficult is championing speech you find disagreeable – or flat out wrong.

One of the most glaring disconnects in Intelligent’s survey is that while 98% of students who identify as either liberal or conservative say that free speech on campus is important or very important to them, nearly two thirds of them support censoring some views from the opposing camp – 61% of conservatives and 66% of liberals.

More adamantly, 21% of liberals and 19% of conservatives believe opposing views should be censored all the time while 34% of liberals and 39% of conservatives say opposing views should never be censored.

“Additionally, both sides showed a surprising willingness to censor views from their own party, indicating a desire to keep politics off campus in general,” the report reads.
Some 55% of liberal students and 57% of conservative students say at least some views from their own parties should be censored on college campuses.


While it can seem almost impossible to get liberals and conservatives to agree on anything today, students from the two camps agree on this: Schools should not sanction political messages of any stripe.

“It is worth noting that a large percentage from both political sides, especially conservative students, again opposed both club funding and professors expressing political views from their own side, suggesting a distaste for politics interfering with campus life in general,” the report says.

According to the survey:

  • 62% of liberal students somewhat (38%) or strongly (24%) believe that professors should face negative consequences for expressing conservative views in class; 59% of conservative students somewhat (38%) or strongly (21%) believe the same about liberal views expressed in class.
  • 31% of liberal students say on-campus clubs affiliated with the Republican party should not qualify for funding from the school, while 35% of conservatives say the same about Democratic-affiliated clubs.
  • 67% of liberal students say they would be somewhat (41%) or very (26%) likely to protest a speaker coming to campus with opposite political views, versus 53% of conservative students (36% somewhat, 17% very likely) who would do the same.


Outside of the classroom, more than 1 in 5 students report they would rather not hang with someone with opposing political views – at least not willingly. And liberals are significantly less likely to do so than conservatives.

Some 28% of liberals – compared to just 20% of conservatives – report that they are not likely to willingly associate with someone from the other camp on campus. Nearly half of conservatives (48%), meanwhile, report that they would very likely associate with liberals, but only 29% of liberals says the same about conservatives.

Liberal students are also more likely to end friendships over political views as well.


Some good news from this Intelligent.com survey: Despite a growing sense of apathy toward the government’s capabilities, 92% of the students say they are somewhat (42%) or very (50%) likely to vote in the midterm elections.

What’s driving them to the polls? For conservative students, healthcare is the No. 1 issue followed by crime at No. 2. For liberals, abortion is the top issue followed by gun control.

The magazine surveyed 1,000 politically aligned U.S. college students between the ages of 18 and 24 during the last week of September.

The full survey report is available here.


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