Buckley Program Releases 2016 Classroom Intimidation Index

Updated: Sep 17, 2018

The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale
Contact: Lauren Noble: 781-698-9208
Freshman Students Least Likely to Support Campus Speech Zones

New Haven CT — Oct. 11…More than half (53%) of U.S. college students just surveyed feel intimidated to share beliefs that differ from those held by their professors, according to the 2016 “Classroom Intimidation Index” compiled by the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale.

The “Classroom Intimidation Index,” a section of the annual Buckley Program Survey measuring the opinions and attitudes of undergraduate college students, is up by four percentage points from a year ago when slightly less than half (49%) of students felt intimidated by professors with whom they disagree. Freshmen and sophomores in 2016 report feeling slightly more intimidated than juniors and seniors.
More than half of students also report feeling intimidated when disagreeing with classmates (51%) in 2016, down from 55% in 2015.

At the same time, college students are significantly more likely this year to say that the First Amendment is “an important amendment that still needs to be followed and respected in society.” In 2015, only 77% of students said so; in 2016, 84% agreed with the statement. A smaller percentage of students (10%) this year also believe that the First Amendment is outdated and needs to be changed. In 2015, fully 17% thought so. More could also identify what rights the First Amendment guarantees in 2016 than in 2015 (82-76).

Still, more than one in five college students surveyed this year (22%) want designated free speech zones on campus, while almost three quarters (74%) think students should be able to express their views anywhere. Freshman students were the most likely (83%) to support free speech campus-wide.
By a greater than two-to-one margin (39-18), students say their school is generally more tolerant of liberal ideas and beliefs than conservative ideas and beliefs, while 38% report their schools being equally tolerant to liberal and conservative thinking. Private school students are more likely than public school undergraduates (46-35) to say their college is more tolerant of liberal ideas.

“The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale strives to increase free speech and intellectual diversity on the Yale campus and beyond,” said Lauren Noble, founder and executive director of the Program. “These surveys offer a treasure trove of data that will become more valuable with every passing year. We are particularly troubled by the year-over-year increase in the ‘Intimidation Index.’ No U.S. college student should be afraid to express his or her honest beliefs in a classroom.”

“We also note that college freshmen are the most likely by far to support free speech anywhere on campuses,” Ms. Noble continued. “We will keep a close eye to see if that changes as they make their way into the upper classes.”

The 2016 Buckley Program Survey was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates between September 17 and September 25, 2016, polling 800 full-time undergraduate students at four-year public and private colleges and universities across the country. The online survey has a +/- error estimate of 3.4%. Methodology for the survey and visual slides are available here.

The 2016 Buckley Program Survey was released in three parts. Results released last week are below.
Twenty-nine percent (29%) of full-time American college students would fail the U.S. Citizenship Test if they took it today.
Civics questions asked were:
· What do we call the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution?
o 85% correctly answered Bill of Rights. Twelve percent (12%) said Declaration of Independence; 1% said Emancipation Proclamation; 2% said Articles of Confederation.
· We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
o Just 40% knew it is six years, while 28% said two years; 26% said six years, and 6% said eight years.
· The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
o Fewer than half (47%) knew it is 435; 21% guessed 100; 23% said 250, and 9% answered 380.
· Who is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?
o Half (50%) correctly answered Justice John Roberts; 21% identified former Secretary of State Colin Powell; 18% thought it was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and 11% answered Justice Thurgood Marshall who died more than 23 years ago.
· Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
o 71% of students knew it was Thomas Jefferson; 10 percent said George Washington; 13% answered Benjamin Franklin; 6% said John Adams.
· What year was the U.S. Constitution written?
o 34% rightly said 1787; 58% wrongly said 1776; 7% answered 1812, and 1% said the Constitution was penned in 1865.
· What territory did the U.S. buy from France in 1803?
o Fully 84% of students knew it was Louisiana; 7% ventured Florida; 6% said Alaska, and 4% said California.
· Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
o Around two-thirds (65%) of college students knew it was Franklin D. Roosevelt; 17% thought it was Herbert Hoover; 7% said Calvin Coolidge, and 12% incorrectly went with Woodrow Wilson.
· Which of the following states does not share a border with Mexico?
o 75% of college students surveyed knew it is Louisiana; 4% wrongly picked Texas; 15% answered Arizona, and 7% said New Mexico.
· When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
o 75% of students also knew it’s April 15th; 9% said January 20th; 14% responded March 13th, while 2% said November 8th, this year’s Election Day.
· What branch of government passes legislation?
o Three quarters (75%) correctly identified the legislative branch; 14% said executive branch, and 12% thought it was the judicial branch. (It’s not, at least not yet.)
· What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
o 86% knew the answer is freed slaves, but 7% of U.S. college students thought it gave women the right to vote; 2% believed it banned alcohol, and 6% said it declared American Independence.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads Republican candidate Donald Trump by 23 points among four-year college students, with Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson receiving 17% of the college vote, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein commanding 7%. An additional 8% of college students surveyed say they will not vote in the November 8 presidential election and another 8% remain undecided.
Secretary Clinton leads the field among all ethnic demographics, surpassing Mr. Trump 35-23 among white students, 58-9 among black students, and 50-15 among Hispanic students. Mrs. Clinton has the support of 74% of college Democrats; Mr. Trump is backed by 57% of college Republicans. Mr. Johnson is leading all other candidates among political independents at four-year schools. (Independents: Johnson 29%; Clinton; 25%; Trump 13%; Stein 11%).
Mrs. Clinton polls higher among students at private universities vs. public universities (48-39), as does Mr. Trump (22-17). Ms. Stein does best among college freshmen, garnering the support of 10% of first year students.
Students also believe by a four-to-one margin that professors and faculty at their schools “generally prefer” Mrs. Clinton to Mr. Trump as the next president.

The 2016 Buckley Program Survey also queried students on whether they most identify with the statement, “Black Lives Matter” (28%), “Blue Lives Matter” (5%), or “All Lives Matter” (59%). Hispanic students were the most likely to answer “All Lives Matter” (64%), while African-American students most identified with “Black Lives Matter” (60%), and Republican college students were the most likely to identify with the statement “Blue Lives Matter” (10%). “Blue Lives Matter” failed to record a score among black college students.