Poll: Only 20 Percent of Public Believe Conservatives Enjoy Free Speech Rights on Campuses

A new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the University of Chicago Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression shows that only a fifth of the public believe that conservatives can exercise free speech on campuses. While faculty members often brush aside objections to the erosion of free speech, this poll is consistent with the view of students. What is striking is that such polling and objections have made little difference to administrators and academics who continue to maintain a hostile environment for conservative or libertarian views.

Roughly half of those polled (47%) said that liberals have “a lot” of freedom to express their views on campuses. Yet, only 20 percent believe that conservatives can enjoy the same free speech rights.

We have already seen faculties purged of conservative and libertarian colleagues. We previously discussed how surveys at universities show a virtual purging of conservative and Republican faculty members.  For example, last year, the Harvard Crimson noted that the university had virtually eliminated Republicans from most departments but that the lack of diversity was not a problem.  Now, a new survey conducted by the Harvard Crimson shows that more than three-quarters of Harvard Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty respondents identify as “liberal” or “very liberal.” Only 2.5% identified as “conservative,” and only 0.4% as “very conservative.”

Likewise, a study by Georgetown University’s Kevin Tobia and MIT’s Eric Martinez found that only nine percent of law school professors identify as conservative at the top 50 law schools. Notably, a 2017 study found 15 percent of faculties were conservative. Another study found that 33 out of 65 departments lacked a single conservative faculty member.

Compare that to a recent Gallup poll stating, “roughly equal proportions of U.S. adults identified as conservative (36%) and moderate (35%) in Gallup polling throughout 2022, while about a quarter identified as liberal (26%).”

The free fall of free speech on campuses has dovetailed with this purging of faculty ranks to create an echo chamber of academic views and values. Despite consistent polling from the public and students showing concern over the lack of diversity of viewpoints on campuses, faculty members show little interest in reversing this trend. Instead, faculty continue to yield to their own agendas at the cost of higher education.  Even with plunging trust in higher education, administrators and faculty cannot resist the temptation to exclude opposing voices.

As I have previously written, the recent FIRE ranking on free speech shows that the lowest-ranking schools tend to be private universities, which are not subject to the full protections of free speech under the First Amendment. Conversely, the top performers this year are, notably, all public universities — Michigan Technological University, Auburn University, the University of New Hampshire, Oregon State University, and Florida State University.

Indeed, in the top-20 schools for free speech, only two are private universities, the University of Chicago and Washington & Lee University.

Much like woke corporations, faculty continue to exclude conservative professors and limit free speech despite the desire of many students to attend speech-tolerant institutions.

The fact is that the better performance of public universities likely reflects compulsion rather than agreement for many faculty. Public universities must protect free speech as a matter of law.

The result, however, is a startling and growing divide among private and public universities. For parents and students who value free speech, they must increasingly look to public universities where faculty are subject to constitutional guarantees.

In the same way, public universities may be the final line of defense for free-speech advocates.

We now largely have two systems of higher education for those seeking education with a diversity of opinions and viewpoints. Except for outliers like the University of Chicago and other private universities holding the line on free speech, the orthodoxy found at private universities remains a barrier to many conservative and independent thinkers.

If we are to protect these bastions of free speech, legislatures will need to play a more active role in addressing the exclusion of both faculty candidates and speakers on public campuses. Too many faculties continue to take the view that citizens are a captive audience that is expected to continue to fund their departments as they exclude conservative or dissenting views held by many, if not most, citizens in a given state. If faculty members want to continue to maintain echo chambers for their own viewpoints, they should have to seek private donors for maintaining such intolerance and orthodoxy. Legislatures can demand evidence that schools are maintaining intellectually diverse faculties in determining the level of continued support from citizens.


76 thoughts on “Poll: Only 20 Percent of Public Believe Conservatives Enjoy Free Speech Rights on Campuses”

  1. @Anonymous

    I like to be civil to everyone – I certainly don’t know everything – and some of my comments are thoroughly disposable, but not enough of us tell you that you are an idiot. So, Anonymous, you are an idiot, and you are not convincing anyone of anything. Not because you disagree, but because you seem to have the acuity of a turnip. Going to post something similar in response to you henceforth due to the fact that you very carefully skirt the rules of civility here by carefully phrasing and providing your idiocy. Nobody cares about your likely paid interference, ActBlueAnon, and if you are the best they can do, they are lighting dollars on freaking fire). This has been copy-pasted and I’m going to use it. If Darren has an issue with that, he is welcome to address it. Some of us actually care about these issues on a level deeper than our own personal levels of comfort or biases, and we aren’t changing our minds or going away. Try your luck on TikTok or Teen Vogue.

  2. Let’s start with lyrics from Bob Dylan 1963:

    Come mothers and fathers,
    Throughout the land
    And don’t criticixe
    What you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond yur command
    There’s a battle
    Outside and it’s ragin’
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-cahangin’.

    Tom Hayden the driving force, helped write a manifesto for “Students for a Democratic Society” (SDS) in the summer of 1962 titled [Port Huron Statement]. http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/111huron.html. This manifesto read today would be no different than in 1962, with few changes in attitude. Below I’ll site just one paragraph. My effort here is to demonstrate that fools and ill-educated have existed throughout history. As an added puzzle, in 1964 UC Berkeley students demonstrated (the cause is irrelevant) and had a standoff with administration until the administration relented, the students then formed {{{{now get this}}}} FREE SPEECH MOVEMENT (FSM)!

    “{8} Some would have us believe that Americans feel contentment amidst prosperity–but might it not better be called a glaze above deeply felt anxieties about their role in the new world? And if these anxieties produce a developed indifference to human affairs, do they not as well produce a yearning to believe that there is an alternative to the present, that something can be done to change circumstances in the school, the workplaces, the bureaucracies, the government? It is to this latter yearning, at once the spark and engine of change, that we direct our present appeal. The search for truly democratic alternatives to the present, and a commitment to social experimentation with them, is a worthy and fulfilling human enterprise, one which moves us and, we hope, others today. On such a basis do we offer this document of our convictions and analysis: as an effort in understanding and changing the conditions of humanity in the late twentieth century, an effort rooted in the ancient, still unfulfilled conception of man attaining determining influence over his circumstances of life.”

    One of 6 goals included in the manifesto:

    “#5. A new left must start controversy across the land, if national policies and national apathy are to be reversed. The ideal university is a community of controversy, within itself and in its effects on communities beyond.”

    May God help us All.

    1. George W,
      The Bob Dylan part is spot on.
      And this line really rang true to me you said.
      “My effort here is to demonstrate that fools and ill-educated have existed throughout history.”
      I agree!
      We see it everyday here on the good professor’s blog from our leftist friends.

      1. @Upstate

        That you are quoting Bob Dylan as an Indie says everything. The modern left hasn’t lost it’s way – it bought into mendacity whole-hog for money, power, control. They are ‘The Man’ they formerly claimed to despise. That old hippies don’t see this tells me their movement was a teenage sham altogether, they were just kids acting out. Wasn’t about politics or values; it was about never having to grow up and assume responsibility for one’s self and loved ones. Sadly, Dylan himself would likely disagree with me in the current atmosphere, such is the groupthink. 😐

  3. Jonathan: Conservatives like you (some on this blog mistakenly believe you are a “liberal) continue to push the false narrative that conservatives have been pushed out of universities. The fact the most professors and students, no matter the discipline, tend to be liberal does not mean conservatives have been “purged”. The one doesn’t flow from the other. Playing the “victim” card doesn’t add to your argument. A few anecdotal complaints by students in the poll doesn’t prove conservatives have been silenced.

    Back on 9/21 you spoke at Villanova on the SC and the Constitution. Doesn’t appear you have been “purged” from speaking on university campuses. Were you prevented from speaking? Were you chased off the Villanova campus? Nope. Otherwise, we would heard from you by now.

    The fact is, conservative professors are in such a minority may be because their ideas don’t appeal to the new generation of students. If you are anti-LGBTQ+, anti-the science of climate change, anti-the medical science re Covid-19, for example, do you really expect a receptive audience on most campuses these days? The Q is why conservatives are such cowards. If they really believed in the anti-views why don’t they stand up for their ideas? If they shrink from speaking out is that the fault of those who don’t agree with them?

    1. “. . . false narrative that conservatives have been pushed out of universities.”

      “. . . conservative professors are in such a minority . . .”

      So which is it?

      Pro tip: Spread your contradictions over different comments. That makes them harder to spot.

      1. Thank you Sam. He does it every time. To wit:
        Everyone knows Turley is a maga

        Turley was able to speak at Villanova

    2. @Denise,

      Turley self identifies as a liberal.
      And if you actually paid any attention to his beliefs you will find he his a liberal.
      There’s nothing wrong with that.

      I’m an actual independent. I’ve never joined/registered for any of the political parties which means I can’t vote in primaries.
      But when I do vote in the general election… I have no partisan biases. But while I am a true independent, the left has swung the pendulum so far to the left, I am now apparently to the right of Genghis Khan. Yet my beliefs haven’t changed.

      Joe Biden is the worst POTUS in the history of this country.
      That is now an established fact.

      No other POTUS has done so much damage in such a short time. Only Jimmy Carter and Obama are rejoicing.

  4. Or the attacks on school and public libraries by parents and taxpayers in Florida and Texas….

    Fixed that for ya.

Leave a Reply