Survey: 30% of Students Believe That Physical Violence Can Be Justified to Prevent Hate Speech

The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale


Contact: Lauren Noble: 203-745-1316


38% Say It is Sometimes Appropriate to Shout Down or Disrupt a Speaker

57% Say Facebook Has a Negative Impact on Political Discourse in America

New Haven, CT — Oct. 16…The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale today released a professional survey measuring the opinions of U.S. college students on the issue of free speech on college campuses.

The 2017 Buckley Free Speech Survey is the third annual survey commissioned by the Buckley Program. Conducted by a nationally respected polling firm, McLaughlin & Associates, the findings reveal student attitudes on a range of topics such as: The First Amendment, speech codes, intellectual diversity, disruption of speakers, hate speech, and impact of social media on political discourse. 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 2017 Buckley Free Speech Survey include:

· Most students (93%) say the issue of free speech is important to them;

· A majority of students (52%) oppose their school having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty;

· By a 53% to 44% margin, students disagree with the proverbial phrase “stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”;

· More than eight in ten students (81%) believe that words can be a form of violence;

· 38% of students say it is sometimes appropriate to shout down or disrupt a speaker on campus;

· 30% of students believe that physical violence can be justified to prevent someone from using hate speech or making racially charged comments;

· By a 58% to 32% margin, students say their college or university should forbid people from speaking on campus who have a history of engaging in hate speech;

· Two in three students (66%) define hate speech in broad terms, saying that it can be anything one particular person believes is harmful and that hate speech means something different to everyone;

· Nearly one in three students (31%) believe that hate speech is not protected under the First Amendment;

· A majority of students (57%) say Facebook has a negative impact on political discourse in America, while 29% say it has a positive impact;

· The plurality of students (45%) share the same opinions and political beliefs as their friends;

· More than nine in ten (93%) agree that there is educational value in listening to and understanding views and opinions that they may disagree with and are different from their own;

“This survey reveals troubling attitudes about free speech held by students across the political spectrum,” said Buckley Program founder and executive director Lauren Noble. “While unsurprising, these results underscore just how much needs to be done to revive open and honest discourse. Colleges and universities should be leading the way.”