Poll: Millennials Overwhelmingly Support Free Speech, Though Protectionism Is Now Popular With Both The Left And Right

Posted: May 01, 2017 6:30 PM

Ann Coulter’s speaking engagement at UC Berkeley was shut down. Charles Murray’s lecture at Middlebury turned violent. You see the same nonsense that shows how America’s college campuses are breeding grounds for anti-free speech and expression zealots, who are—let’s be honest here—totally unhinged. They represent the worst of the Millennial generation. At the same time, a new survey by The Fund For American Studies showed that overwhelming majorities of Millennials support free speech and religious freedom. At the same time, it appears that self-identified Republicans and conservatives also favor more regulation of sectors of the economy, like oil and gas, to keep prices low, preventing pharmaceuticals companies from increasing prices on life saving drugs, and imposing tariffs on overseas goods.

The survey finds:

93% of millennials support religious freedom

92% of millennials support free speech


Millennials (ages 18-34) represent the best indication of how the next generation views freedom and the implication for future public policy. They predominantly believe that “more government” is necessary to protect freedoms. But they also believe the government should be safeguarding freedom more so than guaranteeing security:

Almost 6 out of 10 millennials would choose liberty (60%) over security (40%) as opposed to individuals age 55-64 who are evenly split in their support for security (49%) and liberty (51%)

54% of millennials support “more government” over “less government” (40%) as opposed to non-millennials who support “less government” (51%) over “more government” (45%)

The study also explores the difference between political parties in terms of their attitudes toward liberty and security:

Republicans support security (57%) over liberty (43%)

Democrats support liberty (64%) over security (36%)

Independents support security (60%) over liberty (40%)

Additionally, further distinctions at the ideological level within the Republican party were found. When asked to choose between individual liberty and concerns about security, conservatives split evenly between their support for liberty (51%) and security (49%). Republicans fall more in the camp of “more government” that ensures national security. Conservatives fall primarily in the camp of “less government” that promotes liberty.


The final point of interest is a disconnect between a general support for freedom and support for freedom on specific economic issues. Certain items in the survey emphasize the complexity of the free market, especially in demographics we didn’t expect, namely conservatives and Republicans. Where Republicans and conservatives strongly support a reduction in government regulations over property rights, they also support an increase in government through regulations of industries. For instance:

A majority of Republicans (61%) and Conservatives (57%) believe that the government should regulate oil companies to keep gas prices at reasonable levels

A majority of Republicans (74%) and Conservatives (71%) believe that the government should prevent drug companies from increasing the prices of life-saving drugs

A majority of Republicans (71%) and Conservatives (70%) support tariffs on goods that Americans buy from overseas.

Here’s more from the executive summary, where TFAS noted that protectionism and anti-free trade are now popular on both the Left and Right. Still, more young people, by a 60/40 split, would favor freedom over security overall:

A plurality of Millennials (19.12%) are define freedom as “Active/Same/Liberty.” This definition is followed by 12.12% who define freedom as “Passive/Less Free/Liberty.” The third largest definition (11.42%) who fall into the “Passive/Same/Liberty” definition.

• Millennials scored approximately as high as Non-Millennials on Overall Freedom (69.92), Basic Freedom (77.35), and Economic Freedom (60.55). However, Millennials exceeded Non-Millennials in their support for Religious/Social Freedoms (78.70).

• Millennials are more likely to support an active government (53.81%) over a passive government (39.61%). However, almost six-in-ten Millennials would choose liberty (60%) over security (40%).

• Leading definitions of freedom for Republicans are split between an active role for government versus a passive role.

• Pluralities of Democrats (24.17%) and liberals (23.63%) define freedom as an active government, just as free in the last ten years, and choose liberty over security.

• Despite supporting less freedom overall, Democrats (60%) and liberals (65%) overwhelmingly support liberty over security.


Despite Republicans scoring highest in support for all freedom archetypes except religious/social freedoms, where they scored second highest, their support for Economic Freedoms was surprisingly low relative to other forms of freedom. This indicates that protectionist and anti-free trade policy are now popular on both the left and the right.

• Republicans support security (56.99%) more than liberty (43.02%) while both Democrats and Independents choose liberty over security: with Democrats, 63.52% support liberty and 36.48% support security; with Independents, 60.48% support liberty and 39.54% support security.

• Republicans scored highest in support for Overall Freedom (70.9), Basic Freedom (79.07), and Economic Freedom (62.52). Independents scored highest in support for Religious and Social Freedom (78.24).

• Certain items show the complexity of the free market with Republicans and conservatives where they strongly support a reduction in government over property rights and an increase in government through regulations of industries.

Concerning the disconnect between supporting the principles of liberty and economic freedom, TFAS president Roger Ream said it’s “due in part to a failure on the part of traditional education to teach economics and the media to explain economics to the average American.” Still, 90+ percent of 18-34 year-olds back religious freedom and free speech, which offers a glimmer of hope—at least on fighting the college snowflakes front.