Poll Shows 1 in 4 Americans Now Support Crazy Free Speech Bans—And It’s Even Worse Among Young People

A new poll by The Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports finds that most likely voters believe freedom of speech should remain robust in the United States.

When asked, “Should federal or state governments ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?,” 56 percent of likely voters said, “no.” Only 26 percent of likely voters responded, “yes,” while 18 percent said they are “not sure.”

Likewise, most likely voters said they do not think jail time is a reasonable punishment for those who engage in speech a majority of Americans believes to be offensive. When asked, “Should those who violate such bans against offensive speech be punished with jail time?,” 23 percent of likely voters said “yes.” On the other hand, 55 percent of likely voters responded “no.” Somewhat surprisingly, 21 percent of likely voters said they were “not sure” in response to this question.

Our survey found that support for free-speech bans was significantly higher among younger Americans. Among the respondents aged 18 to 39, 37 percent said they support a government ban on some speech, compared to just 22 percent for those aged 40 to 64 and 20 percent for those aged 65 or older.

Taken together, these results show that a strong majority of likely voters believe the United States should vehemently protect citizens’ right to the freedom of speech. The results also demonstrate that most likely voters are not in favor of free speech bans or harsh punishments for those who violate such bans.

 

National Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters on Freedom of Speech
Conducted December 6-7, 2020
By The Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports

1*Should federal or state governments ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?

26% Yes
56% No
18% Not sure

2*Should those who violate such bans against offensive speech be punished with jail time?

23% Yes
55% No
21% Not sure

Note: The poll has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

PHOTO: The Bill of Rights. Photo by Ted Mielczarek. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Chris Talgo (CTalgo@heartland.org) is an editor and research fellow at The Heartland Institute and a researcher and editor at StoppingSocialism.com.