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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