A majority of college students say they want a place on campus that is void of “threatening actions, ideas, or conversations,” according to a new poll.
The poll released Tuesday by Gallup and the Knight Foundation shows that an overwhelming majority of college students support free speech, but many want a "safe space" on campus that restricts talking about controversial topics.
The poll surveyed 3,319 full-time undergraduate students from 24 different schools ages 18-24 between Oct. 28 and Dec. 19, 2019.
The poll results show:
- 97% of college students say the right to free speech is important in American democracy.
- 78% of college students say they want a safe space where threatening ideas or conversations are restricted.
- 80% of students support having a “free-speech zone” where protests and distribution of literature are allowed.
- 81% of students widely support a campus where students are exposed to all types of speech, even if it is offensive.
- 58% of students support a ban on federal funding for colleges that do not protect free-speech rights.
Students surveyed said conservative students experience more barriers to openly sharing their opinions in public. The results indicate that students feel more pressure from peers about sharing varying opinions than from their professors.
“We understand that [pressure] mostly comes from peers," Evette Alexander, director of learning and impact at the Knight Foundation, told The Washington Free Beacon. "The professors would be open to hearing different thoughts, but the people who feel uncomfortable usually have a point of view that doesn't align with the most vocal students in the room. And so they feel like by speaking up, they would expose themselves to retaliation.”
A majority of students feel their campus environment deters them from speaking openly. The poll shows 63% of students feel that way, which is an increase from 54% who felt that way in 2016.
The margin of sampling error for the poll is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
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