Poll finds younger Americans willing to scrap free speech

New Campaign For Free Speech polling results demonstrate just how vulnerable free speech protections are in the United States.

A majority of Americans – particularly young Millennials appalled by the vague concept of “hate speech” — think the First Amendment needs to be rewritten and are willing to put new restrictions on free speech, according to a new poll.

Some 60 percent of poll respondents agreed on throttling speech in some way, while a thin majority, 51 percent, want to see the First Amendment rewritten to “reflect the cultural norms of today.” The Campaign for Free Speech, which conducted the survey, said the results “indicate free speech is under more threat than previously believed.”

According to the poll:

  • 51 percent of Americans think the First Amendment is outdated and should be rewritten. The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, free assembly, and freedom of religion, among other things.
  • 48 percent believed “hate speech” should be illegal. (“Hate speech” was not defined—the poll left it up to the individual participant.) Of those, about half think the punishment for “hate speech” should include possible jail time, while the rest think it should be a ticket and a fine.
  • 80 percent didn’t know what the First Amendment actually protects. Those polled believed this false statement is true: “The First Amendment allows anyone to say their opinion no matter what, and they are protected by law from any consequences of saying those thoughts or opinions.”

“The findings are frankly extraordinary,” executive director Bob Lystad told the Washington Free Beacon. “Our free speech rights and our free press rights have evolved well over 200 years, and people now seem to be rethinking them.”

Of 1,004 people polled, the young were the most likely to support limiting free expression and punishing those who utter “hate speech.” Nearly 60 percent of Millennials—between the ages of 21 and 38—agreed that the Constitution “goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America” and should be rewritten, compared to 48 percent of Gen Xers and 47 percent of Baby Boomers. A majority of Millennials also supported laws that would make “hate speech” a crime—of those supporters, 54 percent said violators should face jail time.


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