The latest culture war over so-called “hate speech” and whether it should be exempt from First Amendment protections might not be as divisive as it appears, with a new poll indicating that the vast majority American adults believe in protecting freedom of speech regardless of whom it offends.
When asked “Which is more important—giving people the right to free speech or making sure no one is offended by what others say?” an overwhelming 85 percent of respondents indicated that free speech should prevail, Rasmussen Reports found. Only 8 percent found the opposite to be true.
Furthermore, 73 percent of respondents agreed with the famous line by 18th century French author Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” A small minority of respondents (10 percent) disagreed with the statement, and 17 percent remained undecided.
Respondents on both sides of the political aisle overwhelmingly agreed that they would defend a person of any political affiliation’s right to free speech even if they do not personally believe that speech to be true. However, Democrats were slightly less sure about their convictions on the matter than Republicans and those not connected to either party.
On Tuesday, Rasmussen Reports claimed that only 28 percent of American adults felt as if they had true freedom of speech today, while 66 percent felt that they had to be careful not to say or think the wrong thing in public in order to avoid negative repercussions.
The surveys come on the heels of the Boston Free Speech Rally that saw an estimated 40,000 people converge on the Boston Commons.
There, roughly 100 rallygoers – ranging from progressive Bernie Sanders supporters to libertarians and featuring Shiva Ayyadurai, an Indian-American businessman running for the GOP against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) – had hunkered down under a pavilion and were eventually escorted by police to safety through an irate and boisterous crowd of counter-protesters.