In collaboration with the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), the UPP Foundation has commissioned a detailed survey from the Public First on public attitudes about different higher education elements.
The polling, including 2,000 adults, has revealed that the majority of people support free speech, with 55 percent saying that everyone should be allowed to speak to students at a university as long as their views are not considered illegal.
In the meantime, the perspective that no one should be prevented from speaking to students because of their views has received the support of only 24 percent of survey participants.
The Director of the UPP Foundation, Richard Brabner, said that the survey results show there are lessons for all sides regarding this issue, adding that the public including 18–24-year-olds and across political boundaries are pro of controversial speakers on campus even if they do not share the same views.
“The public does not approve of a libertarian free for all. When it comes to racist speakers and Holocaust deniers, the public do not want them anywhere near our universities,” Brabner emphasized.
The polling has provided ten potential scenarios of speakers, many of which could broadly be considered controversial. Regarding these scenarios, the opinions of participants ranged from 56 percent who responded in favor through to a net of -49 percent, whereas between 13 and 22 percent answered with “don’t know.”
The less supported scenario was a Holocaust denier speaking at a university, with -26 percent of respondents saying they should be allowed to speak, 55 percent saying they should not be allowed, while 16 percent did not prefer to give their opinion.
- Out of all respondents, 56 percent said that individuals who promote the UK’s colonial history and the British Empire’s positive role should be allowed to speak on university campuses.
- 53 percent said that individuals who believe immigration levels should be reduced should be allowed to speak on university campuses.
- 36 percent said that individuals who have communist views should be allowed to speak on university campuses.
- 26 percent said that individuals who support Donald Trump and his presidency actions should be allowed to speak on university campuses.
- 26 percent said that individuals who say trans women are not women should be allowed to speak on university campuses.
Furthermore, other results include:
25 percent think an individual who has made racist statements should not be allowed to speak at a university, 26 percent think that individuals who deny the Holocaust should also not be allowed to speak at a university, and 49 percent said advocates of violent jihad should also be prevented to speak at a university.
Among others, the findings have also shown that men support free speech more than women; nevertheless, they are also against allowing free speech at universities to holocaust deniers, jihadi advocates, and racists.