Pew: Elderly Men More Likely Than Millennials to Oppose Speech Restrictions

By Sam Dorman | November 25, 2015 | 4:42pm EST

White, college-educated Republican men over the age of 70 are the most likely demographic group to oppose government interference with Americans’ First Amendment right of free speech even if such speech is deemed offensive to minorities.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, younger Americans are more likely than older generations to support restrictions on constitutionally-protected speech. 

Only 12 percent of Americans aged 70 to 87 support restrictions on speech that is considered offensive to minorities, In contrast, 24 percent of Boomers (51-69) and 27 percent of Gen X’ers (35-50) support such restrictions.

But 40 percent of Millennials (18-34) believe the government should be able to restrict such speech.

Recent incidents at several universities have highlighted the tension between free expression and sensitivity towards minorities.

For example, a Yale University professor recently criticized concerns expressed by the school’s Intercultural Affairs Committee with regard to “culturally unaware and insensitive” Halloween costumes.

Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an essay by Education Secretary Arne Duncan sating that the department's Office of Civil Rights had received over 1,000 complaints of racial harassment in the nearly seven years that he has been in that post.

Pew data reveals that college graduates (75 percent) are the most likely to believe that people should be able to say offensive things publicly, compared to 66 percent of those with some college and 63 percent of those with high school or less.

Pew also found that individuals are more likely to support government speech restrictions depending on their gender, political party affiliation, and race.

Women (33 percent) are significantly more likely to say government should be able to censure offensive statements than men (23 percent), while more non-whites (38 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (23 percent) support such restrictions.

Democrats (35 percent) and Independents (27 percent) are also much more likely to support government censure of non-politically correct speech than their Republican counterparts (18 percent).

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