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One in every five US students support use of violence to stop speakers – survey

White nationalists gather under a statue of Robert E. Lee during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., Aug 12, 2017. Source: Reuters

Nearly one-fifth of undergraduates polled in the US approve of violence to shut down controversial speakers, a recent survey has found.

The survey published by The Brookings Institution also found that a majority of undergrads at four-year colleges and universities approved of overwhelming a speaker by shouting and yelling over their speech so that the “audience cannot hear the speaker.”

According to the survey pointed out by Campus Reform, 51 percent of students agreed that such a protest would be acceptable and 49 percent did not agree. The responses were also largely partisan as 62 percent of Democrats approved of the protest and 39 percent of Republicans felt the same.

John Villasenor, the author of the survey and a Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow, said: “I find the numbers in the above table to be highly concerning, because they show that a very significant fraction of students, across all categories, believe it is acceptable to silence (by shouting) a speaker they find offensive.”

Members of the Ku Klux Klan face counter-protesters as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. on July 8, 2017.

The study also found that 19 percent of those surveyed supported the idea of using violence to “prevent the speaker from speaking” while the remaining 81 percent majority did not.

“A surprisingly large fraction of students believe it is acceptable to act—including resorting to violence—to shut down expression they consider offensive,” Villasenor said.

The survey was conducted on a pool of 1,500 students across the US in the second week of August.

On hate speech, 39 percent of responders felt it was protected by the First Amendment, while 44 percent said it was not. The remaining 16 percent of those surveyed were undecided.

The study also found that 53 percent of responders preferred a learning environment where certain views are prohibited and 47 percent preferred “all types of speech and viewpoints”.

“The survey results establish with data what has been clear anecdotally to anyone who has been observing campus dynamics in recent years: Freedom of expression is deeply imperiled on U.S. campuses,” Villasenor said.

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