Strong liberals are “the only political group who feels they can express themselves” without fear of repercussions, a new Cato Institute survey finds.
In a national survey of 2,000 Americans at least 18 years old, conducted July 1-6, 2020, Cato asked respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement:
“The political climate these days prevents me from saying things I believe because others might find them offensive.”
Sixty-two percent (62%) of Americans agreed, up from 58% in 2017, leading Cato to conclude that “self‐censorship is on the rise in the United States.”
Republicans were the most likely to be afraid to share their views (77%), followed by 59% of Independents. Slightly more than half (52%) of Democrats said they were afraid to voice their opinions.
By ideology, staunch liberals were the only cohort where a majority said they felt free to voice their opinions, as even centrist liberals felt unsafe – signaling a divide between the far-left and moderate liberals, Cato reports:
“Strong liberals stand out, however, as the only political group who feel they can express themselves. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of staunch liberals feel they can say what they believe. However, centrist liberals feel differently. A slim majority (52%) of liberals feel they have to self‐censor, as do 64% of moderates, and 77% of conservatives. This demonstrates that political expression is an issue that divides the Democratic coalition between centrist Democrats and their left flank.”
About a third (32%) of Americans fear that their careers would be harmed if their political views were known, with about one in three of liberals (31%), moderates (30%) and conservatives (34%) alike sharing that concern.
Fears of professional retribution may well be justified, as the survey found that 31% of Americans said they would support firing a business executive who donates to Pres. Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and 22% would back firing one who personally donates to Joe Biden’s campaign. Support for firing Trump supporters rises to 50% among strong liberals, while 36% of strong conservatives support firing Biden supporters.
The survey results suggest that not just “radical or fringe perspectives” are being socially marginalized – but, that even those holding mainstream views are being intimidated into silence, Cato concludes.