College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Speech 2022: A Look at Key Trends in Student Speech Views Since 2016

Jan 21, 2022
  • Description

College campuses have long been places where the limits of free expression are debated and tested. In recent years, this dialogue has grown more fraught as some schools have sought to create a more protective speech environment for students. Moreover, key events shaping the past two years, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial justice movement and the 2020 election, have only added deeper dimensions to the dialogue around free speech playing out on campus and in society at large. 

The "Knight-Ipsos College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Speech" report is the fourth in a series of Knight Foundation reports measuring college student attitudes toward speech and the First Amendment since 2016. For this report, Knight Foundation commissioned Ipsos to conduct a survey with a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 college students ages 18-24 enrolled in all types of higher education institutions, along with 4,000 American adults, offering insight into how college students' views on free speech compare with those of the general public. In addition to the past Knight-Gallup campus speech surveys (2016, 2017, 2019), Knight has studied free speech views among high school students since 2004. Trends in college student attitudes are included throughout this report. 

This Knight Foundation-Ipsos report offers nuanced insight into how college students perceive campus speech and First Amendment protections today, including how views are evolving within different factions of the student body. This survey reinforces that students are not a monolithic group when it comes to speech, finding that partisanship, race, and ethnicity drive meaningful differences in how college students view speech. Understanding where different groups stand is vitally important for higher education leaders as they seek to foster free expression on college campuses and create a campus environment that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. 

The findings described in this report cover many, but not all, of the rich insights possible from this complex dataset. We invite the public and researchers to explore this publicly available resource in further detail.