According to a new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), college Democrats are more likely to object to having President Donald Trump speak at their campus than they are to disinvite a Holocaust denier or an anti-Semite. Republicans, meanwhile, are much less likely to object to Barack Obama speaking at their campus.
Colleges often “disinvite” guest speakers after the speaker’s appearance on campus has already been announced. While 93 percent of students overall agree their campus should invite a variety of speakers, more than half (56 percent) agreed that colleges or universities should sometimes withdraw the invitation. Democrats are much more likely (66 percent) than Republicans (47 percent) to agree that speakers should occasionally be disinvited.
Tragically, students who identified themselves as “strongly Democratic” proved more likely to support disinviting Donald Trump (43 percent) than a Holocaust denier (41 percent) or an outright anti-Semite (35 percent). They were even more likely to object to a speaker they deemed racist, sexist, or homophobic, although they seemed to consider Trump more odious than either a “transphobic” an “Islamophobic” speaker.
Let that sink in: Democratic college students seem to harbor more animus towards the sitting President of the United States than they do towards a Holocaust denier or towards an anti-Semite. Someone who denies the Holocaust is considered less odious than Donald Trump.
Students who considered themselves “strongly Republican” proved far more likely to support disinviting an “anti-American” speaker (31 percent) or a Communist (21 percent) than former President Barack Obama (17 percent). While Republicans proved more likely to objet to a Holocaust denier (19 percent) than to Obama, only 13 percent said they would disinvite an anti-Semite.
While Democrats proved more likely to support disinviting speakers than Republicans, the ideological gap proved even wider. A full 78 percent of “very liberal” students supported the withdrawal of an invitation, while only 38 percent of “very conservative” students did so.
A full 60 percent of “very conservative” students and 46 percent of Republicans said the First Amendment protects hate speech. The Left proved less friendly to free speech, with 64 percent of “very liberal” students and 57 percent of Democratic students saying hate speech should not be protected.
Most “very liberal” students (63 percent) and even nearly half of “very conservative” students (45 percent) said it is important to be part of a campus community where they are not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas. More Republicans (60 percent) than Democrats (28 percent) said they should not have to walk past student protests on campus.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, “very conservative” students were 14 percent less likely to feel comfortable expressing their opinions in class than their “very liberal” peers. That gap proved even wider — 21 percent — in interactions outside the classroom.
While most students (87 percent) reported feeling comfortable with sharing ideas and opinions in class, more than half (54 percent) said they have stopped themselves from sharing an idea or opinion in class at some point. Almost one-third (30 percent) said they have self-censored in class to avoid offending classmates, and nearly the same (29 percent) said they have self-censored outside of class because their ideas might be politically incorrect.
FIRE, an organization dedicated to free speech on campus, teamed up with YouGov to conduct the survey of 1,250 college students last fall. The free speech group clearly has its work cut out for it.