The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Americans say it was "okay" for Charlie Hebdo to publish Muhammad cartoons—but non-whites and women approve less than whites and men


A copy of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad holding a sign saying 'I am Charlie' in French, sits on display outside the Newseum in Washington, DC, USA, 14 January 2015. The issue had a print run of 3 million copies, far in excess of the weekly magazine's usual circulation of 60,000. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

A Pew survey reports:

About three-in-four Americans (76%) have heard at least a little about the attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, conducted January 22-25 among 1,003 adults. Of these, a majority (60%) says that it was okay for Charlie Hebdo to have published cartoons that depict the Prophet Muhammad, but nearly three-in-ten (28%) do not support the magazine's decision to publish this material—saying it was not okay.

The question asked was, "As you may know, over the past several years this magazine has published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which some people found offensive to their religious beliefs. Do you think publishing these cartoons was okay or not okay?" As you might gather, it doesn't necessarily reflect respondents' views on whether the speech should be constitutionally protected, though 70 percent of the "okay" respondents gave "freedom of the press/speech" as one of the reasons why the publication was "okay." (Among the "not okay" respondents, 35 percent said "should respect religious beliefs," 31 percent said "offensive/politically incorrect/not appropriate," and 7 percent said "provoked anger/violence/terrorist"; these percentages have a margin of error of about +/-8 percent.)

There was a seemingly statistically significant gender gap in the results, though both men and women mostly voted "okay" (men 67 percent-24 percent, women 52 percent-33 percent, margin of error +/-5.5 percent).

There was a smaller and likely statistically insignificant politics gap among whites (white Republicans 74 percent-16 percent, white Democrat 66 percent-25 percent, margin of error +/-6 percent).

There was, however, a larger and seemingly statistically significant difference between whites and non-whites (counting Hispanics as non-white), with whites saying okay 70 percent-20 percent, and non-whites 37 percent-48 percent (margin of error +/-4.7 percent for whites, +/-8 percent for non-whites). Among Democrats, there was also a substantial and likely statistically significant racial gap, with white Democrats saying okay 66 percent-25 percent and non-white Democrats at 39 percent-49 percent. (All the party numbers include people who say they "lean" towards that party as well as those who affiliate themselves with it more categorically.)