Americans’ growing support for free speech doesn’t include racist speech

Washington Post: Americans tend to pick and choose who should be afforded civil liberties to some degree, a centuries-old issue that has flared up once again after a video of racist chants by University of Oklahoma fraternity brothers went viral. The university’s president David Boren last week expelled two students filmed making the racist chants.

The popularity of Boren’s actions may be hard to nail down (more on that later), but one fascinating trend in public opinion has been quite clear. Americans have become more supportive of free speech for a variety of controversial groups in recent decades, but this growing acceptance has not extended to racists. This finding comes from the long-running General Social Survey of U.S. adults. Last year the survey found 60 percent saying a “person who believes blacks are genetically inferior” should be allowed to make a speech in their community, similar to the share who said so in 1976 (62 percent).


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