Half of Americans say they believe the First Amendment “goes too far” in allowing free speech and favor some form of censorship, a new poll suggests.
The survey, conducted in early September by Caravan Surveys on behalf of the Campaign for Free Speech, asked 1,004 adults in the United States about their views on “hate speech” and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the rights of free speech and religious freedom.
The first question asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “The First Amendment goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America and should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.”
Twenty-two percent of respondents said they “strongly” agreed while 28 percent of respondents said they “somewhat” agreed with that statement. Eighteen percent “somewhat” disagreed, while 24 percent “strongly” disagreed. Seven percent of respondents said they did not know if they agreed or disagreed with the statement.
When asked if they think hate speech should be against the law, 48 percent said they think it should be against the law, while 31 percent said they think it should “be allowed.” Twenty-one percent of respondents answered with “did not know.”
Respondents who said they think hate speech should be against the law were asked what they think the appropriate consequence for hate speech should be. Fifty-four percent responded with “possible jail time” and 46 percent said “nothing more than a ticket or a fine.”
Sixty-one percent of respondents agreed that “there are places where free speech should be restricted” such as on social media and at universities, while 30 percent disagreed.
“These new polling results indicate free speech is under more threat than previously believed,” Campaign for Free Speech Executive Director Bob Lystad said in a statement.
“Our new initiative aims to combat this concerning trend by highlighting how restricted speech and a restricted press harms everyone, regardless of political affiliation. America can’t be a free country without open dialogue and a robust press.”
When it comes to social media, 49 percent of respondents said they think Facebook should “monitor and restrict” offensive speech and views, while 38 percent said Facebook should allow all speech.
As for censorship of media, 36 percent said they would support the idea of a government agency reviewing content published by alternative media sources “to ensure accuracy.” While 47 percent said they don’t support government regulating content, 17 percent said they did not know.
Sixty-three percent of respondents expressed a willingness for the government to restrict the views of certain groups.
According to the data, 52 percent of respondents said that, yes, the government should restrict the speech of “racists,” 50 percent said it should restrict the speech of “neo-Nazis,” 46 percent said the government should restrict views of “radical Islamists.”
Only 35 percent said the government should restrict the views of “Holocaust deniers” and 20 percent said the government should restrict the views of “anti-vaccine advocates.” Only 18 percent said the government should restrict the views of “climate change denies.”
A total of 37 percent said the government should not restrict the views of any of these groups.
The survey’s findings might be of particular interest to conservative Christians and others who oppose same-sex marriage and homosexuality because of their religious beliefs because some on the political left have labeled “homophobic” or “transphobic” language as hate speech.
On college campuses, Christian and conservative student groups have been met with resistance from administrators and lawsuits have been fought for the right of student groups to run their organizations in accordance with their beliefs.
The Campaign for Free Speech aims to bring awareness about the importance of the First Amendment so that “Americans continue to have a robust, free, and open dialogue.”
“As college campuses increasingly restrict public speakers and a surge of free speech cases continue to batter the court system, the need to highlight the First Amendment and the freedom of speech has become extremely important,” the organization said.