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The Truth About Freedom of Speech: Trends and Demographics





 While many claim to support free speech in the abstract, when confronted with uncomfortable real-life decisions or the principles behind freedom of speech, people can display different attitudes. In an attempt to demonstrate trends in free speech and the demographics which support it – we turn to the comprehensive data made available through the General Social Survey. Since 1972, The General Social Survey (GSS) has collected “data on contemporary American society in order to monitor and explain trends and constants in attitudes, behaviors, and attributes. … Since the GSS adopted questions from earlier surveys, trends can be followed for up to 70 years.” For the purposes of this presentation, we will use the term Free Speech Absolutist to refer to those who said that an admitted Communist, an admitted homosexual, an Anti-Religionist (somebody who is against all churches/religion), a Militarist (a person who advocates doing away with elections and letting the military run the country) and a Racist (a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior) should all be allowed to speak. While this data does have limitations, which we will discuss during the course of this presentation, it provides an indirect sampling over an extended period of time and provides insight unavailable from a direct short-term survey. Who really supports free speech? Source Data: General Social Survey (GSS) Variables: Allow Anti-Religionist to Speak (SPKATH), Allow Homosexual to Speak (SPKHOMO), Allow Racist to Speak (SPKRAC), Allow Militarist to Speak (SPKMIL), Allow Communist to Speak (SPKCOM), Race/Ethnicity (RACECEN1 and HISPANIC), Religion (RELIG), Generation (COHORT), Intelligence (WORDSUM), Native-Born/Foreign-Born (BORN), Gender (SEX), Marital Status (Marital), Number of Children (CHILDS), and Political Party Affiliation (PARTYID).







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