BPC/Morning Consult Poll: Public Views on Free Expression in Higher Education
- Trust in colleges and universities is particularly high among current undergraduate students. Of the tested institutions, current undergraduate students are most likely to trust colleges and universities broadly (83%) and in their state (85%) to create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and emotions about different issues.
- Two in five adults (42%) say colleges and universities are going in the right direction in having an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their views on different issues, while 29% say they have gotten off on the wrong track.
- Adults are most likely to say their employer (61%) and small businesses (56%) are going in the right direction in having an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their views on different issues. Two in five adults (42%) say colleges and universities are going in the right direction in having this type of environment, while 29% say they have gotten off on the wrong track. On the other hand, a plurality of adults say the state government (45%), large businesses (37%), and federal government (54%) have gotten off on the wrong track having an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their views about different issues.
- Current college students are more comfortable sharing their political, religious, and social or cultural views in the classroom than they are on social media. However, employed adults are equally comfortable sharing their views in the workplace as they are on social media.
- While a large majority of adults say colleges should be thinking core skills: independent thinking, ability to work with a diverse workforce, discuss disagreements, only half of adults say colleges are successfully teaching these skills. Democrats are more likely than independents and Republicans to say colleges and universities are teaching the listed skills to students well. A minority (45%) of adults say colleges and universities are doing excellent or well at teaching the ability to converse with people they disagree with to students.
- Current college students are more likely than adults overall to agree colleges should restrict words and language deemed harmful. Current undergraduate students are more likely than adults overall to say colleges and universities should be able to restrict words and language they deem harmful to students (80%) and that some ideas are hateful and should not be discussed on a college campus (66%).
Background & Methodology
The research conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Center seeks to understand the following research objectives:
- Overall confidence, trust, and perceived value of higher education institutions in comparison to other institutions
- Comfort level adults have in expressing different types of views in different settings
- Value adults place on free expression and academic freedom and the role of higher education including importance of colleges preparing students to have conversations with people who are different from them
This poll was conducted between November 16-19, 2021 among a sample of 2,199 adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points
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