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College Republicans and Democrats agree: Defend speech that hurts feelings

College Republicans and Democrats agree: Defend speech that hurts feelings


Margaret Talev, Noah Bressner
March 14, 2024
More than two-thirds of college students believe universities should protect free speech — even if the speech extends to physical threats or inciting violence, according to a new Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll.
Why it matters: The stunning finding reveals a desire to push the limits of free expression on campus. It hints at deep divides over how to advocate for Palestinian civilians while protecting the safety of Jewish students.
By the numbers: Free speech was the third most-cited concern (32%) of the 643 students polled about their institutions, after tuition (50%) and safety (46%).
  • A clear majority of students — 68% — argued for pushing the limits of speech on campus even if there’s some risk of violence. That’s much higher than the 43% of the 3,525 non-students polled who share that view.
  • 77% of respondents said campus speech should be protected even if some feel the language is deeply upsetting.
  • 86% said their institutions should make them feel safe sharing their opinions on tense social issues and global conflicts, and be a safe haven for free speech for the student body.
Between the lines: There was no difference between Democratic students and Republican students. But there was a gender gap, with 74% of men but just 61% of women arguing for expanded speech.
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