Are Liberal or Conservative Americans More Likely to Support Restrictions on Racist and Anti-Religious Speech?

Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy, November 18, 2012

Here’s data from the General Social Survey, limiting the years to 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 (with nearly 8000 total responses for each question), with respondents self-identifying as liberals, moderates, and conservatives. (I have flattened out the gradations within each category—extremely liberal/conservative, plain liberal/conservative, slightly liberal/conservative—partly because otherwise some of the cell sizes become small enough that the margin of error gets quite large.)

“There are always some people whose ideas are considered bad or dangerous by other people. For instance, somebody who is against churches and religion . . .  a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your (city/town/community) against churches and religion, should he be allowed to speak, or not?”

  • Liberals—83-17% yes.
  • Moderates—76-24% yes.
  • Conservatives—75-25% yes.

“Or consider a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior. a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community claiming that Blacks are inferior, should he be allowed to speak, or not?”

  • Liberals—67-33% yes.
  • Moderates—58-42% yes.
  • Conservatives—62-38% yes.

So looking at the public at large, liberals support protection both for racist speech and anti-religious speech more than conservatives do, though the gulf is not wide. Similarly, when the question is whether “such a person [should] be allowed to teach in a college or university,” liberals are likewise somewhat more likely to say yes, both as to the anti-religious person (72-38% liberal, 60-40% moderate, 57-43% conservative) and the person who believes blacks are genetically inferior (53-47% liberal, 47-53% moderate, 47-53% conservative).

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  • Does anyone remember the last time a conservative group protested or tried to shut down a liberal speaking at a university?

    • alas

      Probably because we would have no universities left if we succeeded

    • JohnEngelman

      During the Cold War there were loyalty oaths, black lists, and witch hunts against those suspected of being Communist Party members or Communist sympathizers.

      • ageofknowledge

        The good old days. Good times. We smashed the reds once, now we offshore all of our jobs over to them.

  • Robert Binion

    No, for any liberal that kind of publicity would be money in the bank.

  • This opinion poll is contradicted by the facts of how liberals (leftists) behave. They set up ‘Human Rights Commissions’ and ‘speech codes’ and actively work to shut down any opposing opinions from being spoken.

    Conservative types do not do that.

  • Liberals never say they are against restricting right, but they will always vote for it given a secret ballot. Free speech good for diverse people, bad for straight white males.

  • Dave4088

    There are very few honest liberals with an open mind these days. Today, a liberal is just a nice euphemism for a left wing totalitarian and bigot. Of course, left wing hatred and bigotry is enlightenment and progress according to MSNBC and The Daily Kos.

  • We really need to stop calling them liberals and start calling them what they really are : Genocidal Anti-White Communists.

  • Brendan

    The second poll just might help explain some of the problems and obsessions the Stupid Party has with immigration and minority outreach.

    • NYB

      The Republican’s problems with immigration and minority outreach is that no amount of pandering in these areas will win them votes.

      • JohnEngelman

        But high immigration reduces wages. That is what Republican leaders really want.

  • Ulick

    Before reading this article, it’s a tough call. Liberals are clearly more likely to try to restrict speech that offends on racial grounds, but the impulse is to say that Conservatives would be more likely to restrict speech on religious grounds. However, the last few years shows me that Liberals also ant to restrict anti-religious speech if such speech offends Muslims. Given Liberals propensity to strike down any criticism of Islam couple with their desire to suppress any racial speech that doesn’t support their worldview, and I’ll say that Liberals edge out the dogmatic religious Conservatives in seeking to suppress free speech.

  • purestocles

    What surprised me was how close the responses were. There wasn’t THAT much difference between groups and all three showed themselves to be more tolerant of airing controversial views than otherwise.

  • Tom_in_Miami

    Never mind what they say. How often do you see conservatives preventing speakers from speaking? It’s a given that when a speaker such as Jared or Ann Coulter try to speak there is going to be a near, if not actual, riot.

  • Well there’s public opinion and there’s political action. If the average liberal knew what was being done in his name–who am I kidding, he’d be doing what he always does, averting his eyes politely.

  • LHathaway

    it’s just an anonymous survey. Leftists would never put their money where their mouth is by daring say any such thing out loud. That’s why they are liberals.

  • jeffaral

    It’s a fact that christian conservatives, especially the fundamentalist ones, have an anti-White agenda. A good example is the Southern Baptist convention.