Once again, politics in the United States is in a state of flux. With Donald Trump’s reign indicating a swing to the right wing, the left seems to be regaining momentum if a recent study looking at college students’ opinions on free speech is anything to go by.
In a Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) study of 1,250 undergraduate students, 58 percent said it is important to be part of a campus community where they are not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas.
A further 48 percent of students think the First Amendment should not protect hate speech that includes racist or intolerant language.
Free speech has been valued as a constitutional right since 1791, when the First Amendment was passed.
However, students are no longer prepared to stand by and accept the status quo, even if it is a principle on which the country was founded.
Fifty-six per cent of students surveyed supported the ‘no-platforming’ movement, meaning guest speakers should be uninvited from campus appearances if they intend to perpetuate inappropriate ideologies.
A partisan divide was also revealed in the analytics.
‘Trump’s America’ has sparked a new wave of identity politics. It could be that opinions on free speech are influenced by wanting to identify with a political ideology rather than rational contemplation.
Democratic students were 19 percentage points more likely to object to a speaker than their Republican peers.
And students identifying as “very liberal” were 14 percentage points more likely to express feeling comfortable sharing their opinions in class than were conservative respondents.
This study comes one month after Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said US universities are turning “into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos” and vowed to “protect students’ free expression”, regardless of political leanings.
“There is clearly a partisan divide in how students perceive free speech on college campuses,” FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley said.
“This further solidifies the importance of FIRE’s mission. Free expression is too important to become a partisan issue in higher education.”