1 in 3 Male College Students Supports Violence Against Offensive Speakers

If you want to understand how we got to Berkeley or Charlottesville, here's a truly disturbing survey on college students and support for free speech.

It won't surprise anyone that support for free speech among college students is weak. What this survey measures though is support for suppressing free speech, not just legally, but through harassment and even violence.

As the headline says, 1 in 3 male college students is for using violence to silence unpopular speakers.

But the deeper you dive into the survey, the more disturbing it becomes. I've noted before that millennials across the political spectrum tend to be illiberal. This survey (which is funded by the Koch Foundation) surveyed across the political spectrum.

Republican and independent college students are a little better than Democrats. But not by much.

When asked, "Does the First Amendment protect “hate speech”? 44% of students said it didn't. Only 39% thought it did.

39% of Republican students and 41% of Democrat students and 44% of independent students thought that it did not.

Public students were more likely than private school students to think that it did not. Only 31% of female students, compared to 51% of male students thought it did. 

51% of students supported heckling offensive speakers. And I'll quote from the survey...

The responses to the above question show a very distinct variation across political affiliation, with 62 percent of Democrats but “only” 39 percent of Republicans agreeing that it was acceptable to shout down the speaker. 

39% of Republicans is a whole lot. 

When it came to using violence, 19% overall agreed with using violence to silence an offensive speaker. That included 20% of Dems and 22% of Republicans.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Male student support for violence is at 30 percent. Female support is only at 10 percent.

Finally, 53% of students opted for creating "a positive learning environment for all students by prohibiting certain speech or expression of viewpoints that are offensive or biased against certain groups of people."

That included 61% of Dems, 47% of Repubs and 45% of Independents.

This survey is bad news. It's a web survey so we can always question it. But if we take the numbers at face value (and they appear to track generally with student surveys in the past) then we have a major problem. And while the left has certainly made its inroads among the expected groups, millennials in general appear to embrace illiberal views on free speech across the political spectrum.

The Democrats are worse. But the Republicans and Indies are pretty bad too. Support for free speech among them often barely breaks even. 

We have to ask why a generation raised on the internet is so illiberal when it comes to free speech. And the question may answer itself.