Education

College students positive about free-speech rights — with limits, survey finds

News pages from newspapers around the country that are on display outside the Newseum in Washington. A Gallup poll examined how college students and adults feel about the First Amendment.
News pages from newspapers around the country that are on display outside the Newseum in Washington. A Gallup poll examined how college students and adults feel about the First Amendment. AP File

In a Gallup survey released Monday morning by the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, American college students said they have confidence in First Amendment rights, but more than half say that speech restrictions on campus can be justified.

The survey, also sponsored by the Newseum, also found that nearly 60 percent of students have little or no trust in the media to report fairly and accurately.

Gallup surveyed more than 3,000 college students 18-24 as well as 2,000 adults. In conjunction with the survey, the first of three conferences was held Saturday — all working toward publication of a “Guide to Free Speech on Campus” later this year.

Highlights of the findings, according to the Knight Foundation:

▪  U.S. college students are highly confident in the security of each of the five First Amendment rights, particularly freedom of the press (81 percent), freedom to petition the government (76 percent) and freedom of speech (73 percent).

▪  While majorities of U.S. adults also believe these rights are secure, their confidence greatly lags behind college students’. This is especially pronounced for freedom of speech (56 percent among U.S. adults vs. 73 percent among college students), freedom of the press (64 percent vs. 81 percent) and freedom to petition the government (58 percent vs. 76 percent).

▪  Race is significantly related to perceptions concerning freedom to assemble. Black college students are much less likely than white college students to believe the right of people to assemble peacefully is secure, at 39 percent versus 70 percent, respectively.

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