Tuesday, August 9, 2022
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Evidence That Conservative Students Really Do Self-Censor

Next they were asked: If confronted with that view they identified as most objectionable, how appropriate would it be to take a series of actions, such as asking a tough question, publishing a dissent, or more extreme measures? An alarming 25.5 percent of survey respondents said it would be appropriate to “create an obstruction, such that a campus speaker endorsing this idea could not address an audience.” This authoritarian view was held by about 19 percent of self-identifying liberals, 3 percent of moderates, and 3 percent of conservatives. More than 3 percent of liberals and 1 percent of conservatives thought it would be appropriate to “yell profanity at a student” for endorsing the objectionable idea.

Also troubling were the undergraduates who reported having kept an opinion to themselves in the classroom, even though the opinion was related to the class, because they were worried about the potential consequences of expressing it. Almost 68 percent of conservatives censored themselves in this way, along with roughly 49 percent of moderates and 24 percent of liberals.

Expressing unpopular views “can reveal critical blind spots in prevailing thought patterns,” the authors of the report note, and even when a view is wrong, its refutation allows both parties “to better apprehend why the correct view must be true.” But “a substantial proportion of respondents fear social sanction, or even outright grading penalties, for sharing their views.” What’s more, almost a quarter of conservative students reported being more than slightly concerned that peers would file a complaint against them for speech related to a class they are in together.

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