40% of Millennials OK with Limiting Speech Offensive to Minorities

Jacob Poushter, Pew Research, November 20, 2015

American Millennials are far more likely than older generations to say the government should be able to prevent people from saying offensive statements about minority groups, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data on free speech and media across the globe.

We asked whether people believe that citizens should be able to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, or whether the government should be able to prevent people from saying these things. Four-in-ten Millennials say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups, while 58% said such speech is OK.

Even though a larger share of Millennials favor allowing offensive speech against minorities, the 40% who oppose it is striking given that only around a quarter of Gen Xers (27%) and Boomers (24%) and roughly one-in-ten Silents (12%) say the government should be able to prevent such speech.

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Overall, our global survey found that a majority of Americans say that people should be able to say offensive things about minority groups publicly. Two-thirds of Americans say this, compared with a median of 35% among the 38 nations we polled.

In the U.S., our findings also show a racial divide on this question, with non-whites more likely (38%) to support government prevention of such speech than non-Hispanic whites (23%).

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Among Europeans, there is a wide range of opinion on whether the government can prevent statements that are offensive to minorities. Seven-in-ten Germans say this should be the case (where there are clear laws against hate speech), as do 62% of Italians and half of Poles. The French are divided, with 48% saying that the government should have the ability to prevent speech that is offensive to minority groups, while 51% say people should be able to say these things publicly. In contrast, the balance of opinion in the UK and Spain is to allow people to say statements that might offend minorities.

In contrast with American Millennials, those ages 18 to 34 in Germany and Spain are more likely to say people should be able to say things offensive to minorities compared with those ages 35 and older. {snip}

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