It seems like young adults in the United States might not care about the First Amendment as much as their elders did — or still do, for that matter. In fact, a large number of millennials — the generation that pushed for the Black Lives Matter movement and popularized the term “trigger words” — is perfectly fine with restricting some free speech.
A recent study by Pew Research Center reveals that unlike most of the older Americans, the younger generation is less tolerant of hate speech directed at minorities. About 40 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe the government should be able to prevent language that is racially offensive, voicing an unprecedented degree of trust in the authorities.
“The debate over what kind of speech should be tolerated in public has become a major story around the globe in recent weeks — from racial issues on many U.S. college campuses to questions about speech laws in Europe in the wake of concerns about refugees from the Middle East and the terrorist attack on Paris,” said senior researcher Jacob Poushter.
Needless to say, the results are in stark contrast previous generations. Only 27 percent of Gen Xers (ages 35 to 50), 24 percent of baby boomers (ages 51-69), and 12 percent of those between the ages of 70 to 89 agreed with the idea of government censorship.
Although the study comes at the tail end of widespread racial unrest and race-related protests all across the country, it also notes that people with a college degree prefer free speech compared to those with only a high school diploma. Moreover, non-white participants favored government regulation 15 percent more than the non-Hispanic whites did, according to the report.
On the political front, nearly 35 percent Democrats say the government should be able to stop speech against minorities, in contrast with 18 percent Republicans.
“Compared with people we surveyed in dozens of nations, Americans as a whole are less likely to favor the government being able to prevent speech of any kind,” Poushter explained.
Apart from clear racial divide on the issue, the study also suggests that theses believes of American millennials are more in line with those in Europe. Nearly 50 percent young adults in the European Union said the government should be able to prevent people from saying things that are offensive to minorities
“Seven in 10 Germans say this should be the case (where there are clear laws against hate speech), as do 62% of Italians and half of Poles,” the research concluded. “The French are divided, with 48% saying that the government should have the ability to prevent speech that is offensive to minority groups, while 51% say people should be able to say these things publicly. In contrast, the balance of opinion in the U.K. and Spain is to allow people to say statements that might offend minorities.”
Given the ongoing debate over political correctness in the United States and European countries, it is rather hard to differentiate free speech from hate speech. However, letting the government censor and police what is said might not be the best way to go about.