73% Say Freedom of Speech Worth Dying For
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Americans agree freedom of speech is under assault but strongly insist that they are prepared to defend that freedom even at the cost of their lives if necessary.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that an overwhelming 85% of American Adults think giving people the right to free speech is more important than making sure no one is offended by what others say. Just eight percent (8%) think it’s more important to make sure no one gets offended. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
This shows little change from past surveying. Eighty-three percent (83%) think it is more important for the United States to guarantee freedom of speech than it is to make sure nothing is done to offend other nations and cultures.
Seventy-three percent (73%) agree with the famous line by the 18th century French author Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” Only 10% disagree with that statement, but 17% are undecided.
Among Americans who agree with Voltaire, 93% rate freedom of speech as more important than making sure no one is offended. That compares to just 69% of those who disagree with the French author's maxim.
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The national survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on August 17 & 20, 2017 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
Just 28% of Americans believe they have true freedom of speech today, and most think the country is too politically correct.
There is rare partisan agreement on freedom of speech. Most Americans regardless of political affiliation agree that they would defend someone’s right to say something even if they don’t agree with it, although Democrats are slightly less sure than Republicans and those not affiliated with either major party. The majority across the political spectrum also agree that free speech is more important than making sure no one’s offended.
Generally speaking, most adults across the demographic board agree. Blacks (65%) are just slightly less likely than whites (75%) and other minorities (73%) to say they’d defend to the death someone’s right to free speech if they don’t agree with them.
Men are more supportive of the statement that women are.
Voters rate freedom of speech as even more important than other basic constitutional rights such as religious freedom, freedom of the press and the right to bear arms.
After conservative pundit Ann Coulter was forced to cancel a planned speech at University of California, Berkeley, in the late spring following protests and threats of violence by some students. 44% of Americans said there is less freedom of speech on U.S. college campuses today than there has been in the past. Nearly half (47%) also believe most college administrators and professors are more interested in getting students to agree with certain politically correct points of view rather than in a free exchange of ideas.
In May, just 19% of voters felt that the United States should erase symbols of its past history that are out of line with current sentiments.
Despite calls by some politicians and the media for erasing those connected to slavery from U.S. history, voters strongly believe it’s better to learn from the past than erase it.
Just 20% of Americans say it is better for owners of social media like Facebook and Twitter to regulate what is posted to make sure some people are not offended.
Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.
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