Many Americans share the misperception that America is divided on freedom of speech issues. People on different sides disagree about what constitutes hate speech, what types of speech should be protected, and whether suppression of speech can be productive.

However, some recent surveys have found that many Republicans and Democrats share significant overlaps when it comes to speech.

Check out these surveys conducted in the past few years:

Pew Research Center

(Survey conducted June 16 to 22, 2020)
Key points:

  • 73% of all U.S. adults “say it is likely that social media sites censor political viewpoints,” including 90% of Republicans and 59% of Democrats
  • 67% of all U.S. adults have “not too much” confidence or “none at all” in “social media companies determin[ing] which posts on their platforms should be labeled as inaccurate or misleading,” including 84% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats

Knight Foundation

(Survey conducted January 6, 2022)
Key points:

  • 91% of Americans agree that “protecting free speech is an important part of American democracy.”
  • 90% of Americans agree that “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.”
  • 86% believe “free speech rights help marginalized groups be heard.”
  • 84% of Americans feel the First Amendment protects people like them.
  • Only 22% of Americans believe entering the Capitol to disrupt the 2020 election certification was a legitimate expression of First Amendment rights.
  • 73%  of Americans believe people taking part in protests of racial injustice during the summer of 2020 were legitimately expressing their First Amendment rights.
  • Just 30% of Americans believe spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation is a legitimate expression of First Amendment rights.

More in Common

(Survey conducted in December 2017 to January 2018)
Key points:

  • 80% of all Americans “believe that political correctness is a problem in society”
  • 74% of all Americans believed that people “should be able to say what they really think, even when it offends people,” including 78% of Traditional Conservatives and 65% of Traditional Liberals
  • 67% of all Americans believed that it is necessary “to protect people from dangerous and hateful speech,” including 75% of Traditional Liberals and 56% of Traditional Conservatives

Cato Institute

(Survey conducted August 15 to 23, 2017)
Key points:

  • 79% of all Americans believed that it is morally unacceptable “to say things that might be offensive to racial or religious groups,” including 85% of Democrats and 74% of Republicans
  • 70% of all Americans believed that “A big problem this country has is being politically correct,” including 90% of Republicans and 50% of Democrats
  • 70% of all Americans believed that the government should not have the power to prohibit “...a news media outlet from publishing a story that government officials say is biased or inaccurate,” including 76% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans
  • 62% of all Americans “favor a law that would make it illegal to make statements in public that call for violent protests,” including 66% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans

Jackson Lanzer is a high school senior and a young professional member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. He has contributed to and is now writing depolarizing articles. His writing has been referenced in USA Today, and he has won several regional Scholastic Writing Awards. Jackson has a Center bias.

This piece was edited by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), and was reviewed by James Coan (Center) of Braver Angels.