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College Students Report Decreased Confidence in Free Speech Protections in a New Poll

College students reported less confidence in free speech protections last year compared to 2016, according to a new Gallup poll.

The latest poll collected responses from 3,014 college students, with an expanded sample of 216 respondents at historically black schools. It follows up on a 2016 survey gauging student attitudes toward free speech amid debate over which speakers should be invited to campuses. Compared to the 2016 results, last year's students reported lower confidence in the security of free expression in the country as a whole: Sixty-four percent said freedom of speech is secure in the United States, compared to 73 percent in 2016, and 60 percent classified freedom of the press as secure, down from 81 percent in 2016. Students who identified as Democrats and Independents were significantly more likely to perceive these declines than Republican students, who "are far more likely than Democrats to view the five First Amendment rights as secure," Gallup reports.

Party lines also divided views toward hate speech. Although just over one-third of students total said that hate speech should be protected by the First Amendment, that broke down to 47 percent of Republicans and only 25 percent of Democrats in this survey—and also to just 29 percent of women, compared to 43 percent of men. At the same time, students view campuses as more welcoming to liberal views: While 92 percent of students believed political liberals can freely express their views on campus, only 69 percent said the same for political conservatives.