Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults – GALLUP

by Newsstand


A Gallup survey of American universities was recently conducted – questions concerning free speech, race relations and the First Amendment Rights, views of the press and social media were put forth.  The full Gallup survey is here (pdf 36 pages).  And below is the conclusion of the survey:


This study leaves little doubt that college students believe First Amendment rights remain strong in this country — but raises questions about how they interpret those rights. College students are more likely than the U.S. adult population overall to believe First Amendment rights are secure, and they tend to view their student cohort as more respectful of free speech than the broader population. They also believe First Amendment  rights are stronger now than in the past, and believe a free press is more important to democracy today than it was 20 years ago, even as newer information sources challenge the press’ once-dominant position as Americans’ primary news source.

At the same time, students are willing to accept some limitations on free expression, particularly that which is done to intentionally hurt or stereotype members of certain groups. Most college students believe that the steps their school has taken to discourage certain kinds of speech are appropriate, even though more agree than disagree that such steps may create an environment that inhibits free expression. And, while students also mostly agree in the abstract that the press has a right to cover campus protests even over the objections of protesters, they are almost evenly divided on the legitimacy of specific reasons that protesters might want to block reporters.

Despite widespread awareness of ongoing debates on some campuses, college students, including a majority of black students, are generally positive about the racial environment at their school.  They also report that hurtful or offensive comments are infrequently heard on campus, and they overwhelmingly believe their college’s president values diversity as well as free expression.  The findings of this survey suggest that, while the core principles of the First Amendment and free expression are well-rooted in society, what those rights mean is up for debate in an era of changing media habits, new forms of technology-mediated conversation, and important national debates on race and diversity.

FreeSpeech_campus.pdf – GALLUP