According to a newly released nuanced survey of American attitudes on various political and cultural issues, a whopping 80 percent of Americans think political correctness is a problem. This includes vast majorities in each racial group, including African-Americans. Only the radical subset of progressive activists disagreed.
“I have liberal views but I think political correctness has gone too far, absolutely,” said a 28-year-old woman from North Carolina, identified in the study as a “Passive Liberal.” “We have gotten to the point where everybody is offended by the smallest thing.”
“I think that there are certain things that you can say or do that offend people, as far as being politically correct, but I also think that we have become a society that is offended at everything,” a 30-year-old “Traditional Liberal” from Indiana argued.
“Why do we have this need in the US to call out people for appreciating a culture?… It’s becoming ridiculous,” a 30-year-old “Politically Disengaged” woman in Arizona said.
“It’s a good thing to actually try and not offend anybody…. It’s a good idea to try to respect other religions, cultures, and orientations. At the same time, I do feel like sometimes we have pushed it down people’s throats to the point of nausea,” a 40-year-old “Moderate” man from Chicago, explained.
According to “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” Americans break into seven broad categories: Progressive Activists (8 percent), Traditional Liberals (11 percent), Passive Liberals (15 percent), Politically Disengaged (26 percent), Moderates (15 percent), Traditional Conservatives (19 percent), and Devoted Conservatives (6 percent). More in Common, the group behind the study, was founded in memory of Jo Cox, the British MP murdered in the run-up to Brexit.
According to “Hidden Tribes,” the 25 percent of Americans who constitute traditional or devoted conservatives and the 8 percent who constitute progressive activists are outside the mainstream. A full two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) make up an “exhausted majority,” who “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”
While the “tribes” disagree on many issues, almost all of them consider political correctness a problem in modern America. On average, 80 percent of Americans view political correctness as a problem. Only Progressive Activists stand out, and even 30 percent of them see it as a problem.
Yascha Mounk, a lecturer on government at Harvard University, broke down the numbers still further in an article for The Atlantic. Even 79 percent of young millennials (under age 24) and 74 percent of older millennials (ages 24 to 29) oppose political correctness. Every racial group opposes it: whites at 79 percent, Asians at 82 percent, Hispanics at 87 percent, and American Indians at 88 percent. African-Americans are most likely to support political correctness, but 75 percent of them still view it as a problem.
Mounk noted that income and education best explain who supports political correctness. Although 83 percent of respondents who make less than $50,000 dislike PC culture, only 70 percent of those who make more than $100,000 dislike it. A full 87 percent of those who have never attended college consider political correctness a problem, while only 66 percent of those with a postgraduate degree agree.
Mounk admitted that the study did not define “political correctness,” but extended interviews with respondents put forth a basic understanding that “they worry that a lack of familiarity with a topic, or an unthinking word choice, could lead to serious social sanctions for them.”
Americans firmly oppose political correctness, but they also worry about protecting people from “dangerous and hateful speech.”
“Hidden Tribes” revealed that 74 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “people should be able to say what they really think even when it offends people,” but 67 percent agreed that “we need to protect people from dangerous and hateful speech.”
Liberal groups tended to favor protecting people over free speech, while moderates and conservatives favored free speech.
To his credit, Mounk admitted that his “politically engaged, highly educated, left-wing” “intellectual milieu” misunderstands just how much ordinary Americans dislike political correctness. Even so, 82 percent of Americans did say they believe “hate speech” is also a problem.
Conservatives need to do more than mock political correctness — they also need to demonstrate the kind of civility that disproves the liberal contention that conservative ideas constitute “hate.” The Left is alienating the vast majority of Americans who consider political correctness a problem, but the Right needs to make sure that when the Left tarnishes them as haters, their civility proves just how ridiculous liberal smears truly are.
Conservatives have won one key facet of the culture war, but bashing political correctness will not be enough. President Trump won by being politically incorrect, but the Right stands for using that free speech to defend positive American ideals — the very ideals the Left derides as “hate.” The next battle involves revealing just how ridiculous that attack truly is.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.