Civil Liberties

Millennials More Likely to Support Censorship of Offensive Speech Than Older Americans

Libertarians must make the case that free speech is the cornerstone of civilized society.



While two-thirds of Americans correctly believe the U.S. government should not prohibit speech that offends minorities, a shockingly high number of millennials—40 percent—support such censorship. Young people, it turns out, are more likely to favor suppression of offensive speech than older Americans.

That's according to the Pew Research Center, which found the results "striking":

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.

The demographic breakdown was also interesting. Non-whites, men, Republicans, and the college-educated were more pro-speech than whites, women, Democrats, and people without a college degree.

American attitudes toward free speech are much more favorable, on the whole, than European views. Nevertheless, German millennials are actually less censorious than their American counterparts. British young people hold views that are about the same as Americans.

These results seem to confirm—at least in very abstract terms—the results of a recent survey of college students that found majority support for mandatory trigger warnings and censorship of hateful speakers.

It would seem that libertarians—and everyone else who values a free and open discourse—must do a better job to persuade young people that robust protection of free speech (including offensive, hateful speech) is the cornerstone of civilized society.