This is the third poll in less than a month on this unnerving topic and the second to survey college students specifically. The previous one, which showed 19 percent support among undergrads for using violence to silence a speaker, was attacked afterward as “junk science” because it used an opt-in online panel. This new one from Republican pollster John McLaughlin was also conducted online but weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the country. If you’re skeptical of the result, the methodology may be less objectionable to you than the fact that McLaughlin was also the pollster who missed Eric Cantor’s momentous upset loss to Dave Brat in 2014 by, er, 46 points. Still didn’t prevent him from landing a job with the Trump campaign last year, though.
For the record, all three polls have placed support for shutting down speakers among young adults and/or college students at no worse than 14 percent. McLaughlin’s poll has it much higher:
Two things jump out. First, the numbers are surprisingly consistent across different groups. Even among women, more than a fifth are willing to condone violence to stop someone from speaking. As much as right-wingers would like to crow that this is left-wing fascism at work, there’s virtually no partisan gap — a result duplicated by the other survey of college students, which found Republican students slightly more likely to condone violence than Democratic ones. Second, some of the strongest support for using violence to silence someone who’s “using hate speech or making racially charged comments” comes from minority students, with 42 percent of blacks and 37 percent of Latinos agreeing. On the one hand, go figure that minorities might perceive “racially charged” speech as more physically menacing than whites do. On the other hand, no group should be anywhere near 20 percent on this question, let alone 40. And yet, they all are.
Speaking of menacing speech:
Viewing speech as violence is a fast track to gutting the First Amendment but the Leaders of Tomorrow are overwhelmingly open to the idea, including, once again, Republicans. The more mainstream that idea becomes, the closer we get to “hate speech” carve-outs from constitutional protection. In fact, what’s most interesting scrolling through the various questions McLaughlin asked is how much undergrads have already compartmentalized “hate speech” as an entirely different expressive creature. When asked if they’d rather see their school promote intellectual diversity by including speakers with various viewpoints, even if “controversial,” or if they’d rather have the school block speakers with “controversial views and opinions on issues like politics, race, religion or gender,” every group breaks strongly in favor of the first position. Overall the split is 84/10, with Republicans and Democrats nearly identical in support. Toss the term “hate speech” in there, though, and everyone goes to pieces:
The trend is not encouraging, and again, the results are consistent across all groups, including Republicans. And if you’re trying to console yourself by wondering if maybe they have a very particular and narrow definition of “hate speech” in mind — say, racial slurs and nothing else — you need to let go of those illusions. McLaughlin asked about that, wondering how many students would agree or disagree that “Hate speech is anything that one particular person believes is harmful, racist or bigoted. Hate speech means something different to everyone and you just know it when you see or hear it.” Including anything that’s “harmful” and making it explicitly subjective is about as broad as you can make the concept. Result: 66 percent agreed with the definition versus just 24 percent who didn’t.
To all the Trump critics who worry that he’s going to get us into nuclear war: Looking at these results, are you sure that’s a bad thing?
Other trends are bad too. Two years ago McLaughlin asked students if people should be able to express their views anywhere on campus or if they should be confined to “designated free speech zones.” Back then undergrads split 74/22; now they split … 51/40. Presumably that’s a reaction to Antifa and other radicals setting things on fire when people like Milo Yiannopoulos come to town. If left-wing fascists are apt to riot at the slightest provocation then yes, many chickenhearts will conclude, we must do our best to control the time and place of those provocations as tightly as possible.
And the stupidest part of all this? Republican students continue to perceive a culture of intimidation on campus aimed at them because of their political views. Fully 61 percent say they’ve felt reluctant to share their views or beliefs in class because they differed from the professor’s and 58 percent felt reluctant to share because they differed from their classmates’. If you think campus is already too ideologically suffocating, the last thing you should want to do is reinforce the cloister effect by signing on to idiocy like “hate speech.” And yet, if McLaughlin’s to be believed, GOP students are fully along for the ride.