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College Students See Less Secure First Amendment Rights

College Students See Less Secure First Amendment Rights
by Megan Brenan

Story Highlights

  • Six in 10 students say freedom of the press is secure, down from 81%
  • Republican students more likely than Democrats to see freedoms as secure
  • Black students less likely than whites to view nearly all freedoms as secure

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Majorities of U.S. college students continue to say the five First Amendment freedoms are secure in the country today. However, fewer students now than in 2016 perceive all five as secure. Freedom of the press has suffered the largest decline; the percentage of college students who view that right as secure has dropped by 21 percentage points.

Students Believe All Five First Amendment Rights Are Less Secure
Do you think each of the following rights is very secure, secure, threatened or very threatened in the country today? (% Very secure/Secure)
2016 2017 Change
% % pct. pts.
Freedom to petition the government 76 67 -9
Freedom of speech 73 64 -9
Freedom of religion 68 64 -4
Freedom of the press 81 60 -21
Freedom for people to assemble peacefully 66 57 -9
GALLUP/KNIGHT FOUNDATION COLLEGE STUDENT SURVEY

These results are based on a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey of 3,014 randomly sampled U.S. college students. This 2017 study is an update of a nationally representative 2016 Knight Foundation/Newseum Institute/Gallup survey on the same topic.

College students are most likely to say freedom to petition the government is secure, with 67% holding this view. Slightly fewer say freedom of speech (64%) and freedom of religion (64%) are secure. Sixty percent believe freedom of the press is secure, and 57% say the same about freedom for people to assemble peacefully.

In addition to the double-digit drop in views of the security of press freedom, the latest results show nine-point declines for free speech, freedom to assemble and freedom to petition the government. Students' views of the security of religious freedom have changed the least, edging down four points.

Partisans Have Different Views of First Amendment Freedom Security

In contrast to the 2016 survey, partisans' views of the security of the five First Amendment rights have diverged in the latest poll. Republican college students are far more likely than Democrats to view all five freedoms as secure. The two groups differ most on freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, with less than half of Democrats and more than seven in 10 Republicans believing those rights are secure. Independents tend to see each freedom as less secure than they did in 2016 -- and less secure than Republicans currently do.

College Students' Perceived Security of First Amendment Rights, by Political Party
Do you think each of the following rights is very secure, secure, threatened or very threatened in the country today? (% Very secure/Secure)
Petition Press Assemble Speech Religion
% % % % %
Republicans 80 79 74 71 71
Independents 70 65 58 66 68
Democrats 61 48 47 59 58
GALLUP/KNIGHT FOUNDATION 2017 COLLEGE STUDENT SURVEY

Republican college students' opinions about the security of the five freedoms generally have not changed, although they are slightly more likely now than in 2016 to say freedom of speech and freedom of religion are secure. The percentages of Democratic college students who believe freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government are secure have fallen by more than 10 points.

Changes in College Students' Perceived Security of First Amendment Rights, by Political Party
Do you think each of the following rights is very secure, secure, threatened or very threatened in the country today? (% Very secure/Secure)
Petition Press Assemble Speech Religion
% % % % %
Republicans
2016 78 83 76 66 66
2017 80 79 74 71 71
Change (pct. pts.) +2 -4 -2 +5 +5
Independents
2016 76 78 69 74 71
2017 70 65 58 66 68
Change (pct. pts.) -6 -13 -11 -8 -3
Democrats
2016 75 83 60 74 66
2017 61 48 47 59 58
Change (pct. pts.) -14 -35 -13 -15 -8
GALLUP/KNIGHT FOUNDATION COLLEGE STUDENT SURVEY

The largest shift since 2016 among Democratic students is in their views of freedom of the press. That percentage has tumbled 35 points to 48%, while Republican students' views have remained fairly steady at 79%. Independents are also significantly less likely than they were in 2016 to believe freedom of the press is secure.

##SPEEDBUMP##

Racial Differences in Views of First Amendment Freedoms Persist, Worsen

As was the case in 2016, there are significant racial differences among college students in the latest poll. Compared with white students, non-Hispanic black students are less likely to say all of the First Amendment freedoms are secure -- except freedom of the press, for which they hold similar views. White (58%) and black (40%) students differ most on their views of assembly rights as secure.

Change in College Students' Views of the Security of First Amendment Rights in the U.S., by Race
Do you think each of the following rights is very secure, secure, threatened or very threatened in the country today? (% Very secure/Secure)
Petition Speech Religion Press Assemble
% % % % %
2016
Whites 78 73 69 82 70
Blacks 69 61 57 73 39
2017
Whites 70 66 66 59 58
Blacks 54 54 53 58 40
GALLUP/KNIGHT FOUNDATION COLLEGE STUDENT SURVEY

Bottom Line

Over the past few years, tensions about free expression and inclusiveness on college campuses have escalated across the country. Yet, these latest findings show that campus events or policies related to free speech -- such as instituting speech codes or disinviting controversial speakers -- appear to matter little in how students view the security of free speech rights in this country. For example, students' views of the security of free speech do not differ based on whether their college has a speech code or has disinvited a speaker.

Instead, the changes in views appear to be influenced by the way Democratic and Republican students view the First Amendment guarantees. And this appears to be related to their partisanship and the party of the president. In 2016, when Barack Obama was president, Democrats and Republicans mostly held similar views about the security of First Amendment freedoms. Now, with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Democratic students are much less likely than their Republican counterparts to believe that all five freedoms are secure.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 1-Dec. 10, 2017, with a random sample of 3,014 students attending four-year U.S. colleges full time. For results based on the total sample of college students, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

For this study, Gallup randomly sampled U.S. four-year colleges that were stratified according to enrollment, private or public control, and region of the country. All sampled colleges were contacted and asked to provide a random sample of their students. Thirty-nine colleges provided samples, including 25 public and 14 private institutions, six from the East, 12 from the Midwest, 15 from the South and six from the West. Ten colleges had enrollments of 10,000 students or more, 12 had enrollments between 5,000 and 10,000, and 17 had enrollments of less than 5,000.

Gallup


Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/229259/college-students-less-secure-first-amendment-rights.aspx
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