Americans support free speech, even if offensive

Americans support free speech, even if offensive

With statements on social media and in the public arena, the United States presidential candidates have demonstrated they have an overflowing stockpile of piercing comments, derogatory expressions and offensive speech from which to choose.

But according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans don’t seem to mind so much — or at least they are less inclined to outlaw such speech.

Free expression, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is something Americans tend to support more than the 37 other nations in Pew’s 2015 survey.

Americans were among the most supportive of free speech, freedom of the press and the right to use the Internet without government censorship, according to Pew.

When it comes to offensive speech, Americans are much more tolerant than people in other nations.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans surveyed support the right of others to make statements that are offensive to their own religious beliefs, Pew reported. And 67 percent think people should be allowed to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups.

Sexually explicit speech

The U.S. was 1 of only 3 nations that has at least 50 percent who say sexually explicit speech is a right.

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed agreed that “people can say what they want,” compared to 69 percent in Latin America, 65 percent in Europe, 50 percent in Asia/Pacific and 46 percent in Africa.

When it comes to politics the survey found there are few differences across party lines in regards to free speech.

Generationally, though, is where Pew found some differences.

Forty percent of millenials think the government should be able to prevent people from making statements that are offensive to minority groups, according to Pew, where only 27 percent of Generation X and 24 percent of baby boomers agree.

But these percentages are strictly looking at whether offensive language should be legal or outlawed.

When it comes to being “offended,” Pew found in a recent survey that 59 percent of those surveyed agreed that “too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use.”

There is a significant divide among party lines when looking at this statistic. Republicans (78 percent) say people are too easily offended these days, whereas 37 percent of Democrats agree. Also among registered voters, 83 percent of Donald Trump supporters believe too many people are easily offended, Pew reported, where only 39 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters agree. (TAB)