Knight Foundation Releases the Fourth Report on College Students’ Attitudes Toward Free Expression

February 17, 2022

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Title: College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Speech 2022: A Look at Key Trends in Student Speech Views Since 2016

Source: Knight Foundation and Ipsos

The Knight Foundation recently released a new report in collaboration with Ipsos measuring college students’ attitudes toward speech and the First Amendment. This report is based on the 2021 Knight-Ipsos survey, the fourth in a series of the foundation’s campus speech surveys. Over 1,000 college students ages 18-24 who were enrolled in all types of higher education institutions responded to the survey.

Key findings include:

  • Most college students continue to believe speech rights as important to democracy (84 percent).
  • The report shows a steady decline in the percentage of students perceiving speech rights are secure since 2016 (73 percent to 47 percent) and a sharp decline in perceived speech security among students who identify as Republican between 2019 and 2021 (52 percent to 27 percent).
  • In particular, Black students are less likely to feel the First Amendment protects them (51 percent), compared to white (90 percent) and Hispanic students (82 percent).
  • A majority of students say colleges should allow students to be exposed to all types of speech (59 percent), yet most students support college policies that restrict racist speech (67 percent).
  • Even though more students say their campus climate controls free expression (65 percent), some students—particularly women and students of color—report feeling uncomfortable (34 percent) or unsafe (17 percent) because of campus speech regarding their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

This report highlights that more students believe free speech is not secure today and that differences in student experiences with free speech vary across race and partisanship. The authors write that a “whole-of-society view” is needed when discussing free speech around campus, given that today’s campus free speech is not only limited to campus-specific issues.

Click here to read the full report. You can also read ACE’s reports and a series of blog posts on freedom of speech, diversity, and inclusion. 

—Ji Hye “Jane” Kim

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