Poll: Most High Schoolers Don’t Think ‘Offensive’ Speech Should Be Allowed in Public

classroom high schoolA new survey of America’s high school students find that more than half say that “offensive” speech should not be allowed in public or online.

The good news according to the Knight Foundation is that, broadly speaking, support for First Amendment rights is at the highest level in their history of polling high school students. Ninety-one percent now say they believe that people should be allowed to “express unpopular opinions.”

But when researchers began asking about more specific kinds of unpopular speech, support plummeted. Only 45% agree that people should “say what they want in public, even if it is offensive to others” while 51% disagree. Even less, 43%, say they support the right to make offensive speech on social media.

Support drops even lower when students are asked about “bullying” speech. Only 36% believe that people should be allowed to use bullying speech in public, with 30% feeling the same about its use on social media, while the larger majorities believe it should not.

Existing First Amendment case law makes no distinction between inoffensive speech and offensive speech, or “hate speech.” Nonetheless, support of among young Americans for hate speech exceptions are growing. One recent poll also found that two-thirds of college students believe that “intentionally offensive” speech should be banned on campus.

[image via Shutterstock]

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