- A majority of Americans, 54%, oppose legislation that regulates what college professors are able to discuss in class, according to a new survey from YouGov, a market research firm. When broken down by political party, 43% of Republicans objected to such regulations, compared to 59% of Democrats and 56% of independents.
- Older respondents were more likely to oppose laws restricting professors' speech than younger ones, according to the survey. Among people 65 and older, 68% opposed the government regulating faculty speech, compared to 45% of Americans ages 30 to 44 and 42% of those ages 18 to 29.
- But roughly one in three Americans said professors have too much freedom to speak their minds in the classroom.
This latest polling data comes as academic freedom has become a major issue for state and federal lawmakers.
State legislative proposals that would restrict the topics colleges can teach are on the rise this year compared to 2021, according to an August report from PEN America. At the federal level, House Republicans have called on the U.S. Department of Education to detail its efforts to support academic freedom on college campuses, after criticizing the agency for not promoting a free exchange of ideas.
Different issues are at play depending on who is expressing which concerns. House Republicans worried about protecting speech across the political spectrum, while PEN America pointed out many bills introduced by conservatives would restrict discussion regarding race, inclusion, history, gender and sexuality.
Americans who attended college are more likely to oppose laws regulating professors' speech, the survey found.
Among college graduates, 61% said the government should not regulate how professors can speak about certain topics in the classroom. That's compared to 55% of respondents who attended college but did not get a degree and 42% of those who did not go to college at all.
The survey included 7,556 responses collected Oct. 3 and 4. Researchers weighted the data to be representative of the overall population's gender, age, race, education level, region and political party.