Survey: 41% of Students Say It is Sometimes Appropriate to Shout Down or Disrupt a Speaker on Campus

Updated:Nov 16, 2018



Majority Often Intimidated Sharing Their Ideas, Opinions, or Beliefs in Class

33% Have Attended a Rally or Protest in the Last Two Years

New Haven, CT – November 1…The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale today released its annual professional survey measuring the opinions of U.S. college students.

The 2018 Buckley Program Survey is the fourth annual survey commissioned by the Buckley Program. Conducted by a nationally respected polling firm, McLaughlin & Associates, the findings cover student attitudes on free speech, intellectual diversity, capitalism and socialism, social media, and more. The national survey of 800 undergraduate students was conducted online and respondents were carefully selected and screened from a nationwide representative platform of individuals who elect to participate in online surveys.

The survey and methodology can be viewed here.

Highlights from the 2018 Buckley Program Survey include:

  • Undergraduates continue to overwhelmingly believe the First Amendment is an important amendment that still needs to be followed and respected rather than being outdated, 79% to 17%;
  • A majority, 54%, opposes speech codes, while 38% of undergraduates favor them;
  • A plurality of students, 46%, says they share the same opinions and political beliefs as their friends. Just 10% say they have different opinions than their friends and 41% say they have an equal amount of friends with similar and different opinions;
  • A majority, 53%, says they often feel intimidated sharing their ideas, opinions or beliefs in class because they were different than those of their professors;
  • Another majority, 54%, says they also feel intimidated sharing their ideas, opinions or beliefs in class because they were different than those of their classmates;
  • Slightly more than half, 52%, say they have had professors or course instructors that have used class time to express their own beliefs that are unrelated to the course material;
  • Greater than half, 53%, say professors, peers or guest speakers on campus have changed their mind on an issue after they heard their perspective;
  • Four in ten, 41%, agree that it’s sometimes appropriate to shout down and disrupt a speaker on campus;
  • Nearly six in ten, 59%, agree their school should forbid people from speaking on campus who have a history of engaging in hate speech, while 36% disagree;
  • 57% agree that hate speech is still technically protected under the First Amendment as free speech, while 38% disagree;
  • A third of students, 33%, believe that physical violence can be justified to prevent a person from using hate speech or making racially charged comments;
  • Greater than six in ten, 62%, agree that social media companies should censor hate speech by shutting down the accounts of users who engage in hate speech;
  • The plurality, 45%, says the primary purpose of higher education is career preparation, while 28% say it’s to learn how to think critically, 16% say it’s to seek the truth, and 9% say it’s to promote social justice;
  • “Capitalism” has a net positive rating of 14-points, 45% favorable to 31% unfavorable, while “socialism” has a net negative image rating, 34% favorable to 42% unfavorable;
  • One-third of students, 33%, have attended a rally or protest in the last two years that advocated for a particular political cause. Private school students were more likely to say they have attended than students in state schools, 40% to 30%, respectively. By class, freshmen were most likely to say they have been to a rally, at 40%. Almost half, 48%, of liberals have attended a rally compared to 23% of moderates and 19% of conservatives.

“These survey results present a troubling but unsurprising picture of attitudes toward free speech,” said Buckley Program founder and executive director Lauren Noble. “A majority of students should not feel intimidated in sharing their views in the classroom. It’s also unfortunate that college campuses — which could be leaders in bringing people together around fundamental values — are just as polarized and divided as the rest of America.”