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Apr 09

Gallup: Millennials secure in First Amendment rights | News for College Students | USA TODAY College

A Bald Eagle (pygargue à tête blanche) is pictured at the zoo of the French eastern city of Amneville, on June 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN (Photo credit should read JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/GettyImages) (Photo: JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN AFP/Getty Images)

A Bald Eagle (Photo: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images)

When it comes to the First Amendment on campus, U.S. students have some conflicting viewpoints, a national survey of students and adults from Gallup, released this week, has found.

As a whole, however, they’re “highly confident” about the security of their five rights, particularly when it comes to freedom of the press (81%), freedom to petition the government (76%) and freedom of speech (73%).

Some 3,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 participated in the survey, Free Expression on Campus, which was sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Newseum.

Here, some major takeaways.

‘YES’ (MOSTLY) TO FREE SPEECH 

Nearly eight in 10 surveyed said their universities “should strive to create open learning environments that expose students to all types of viewpoints” even if that means “allowing speech that is offensive or biased against certain groups of people.”

Students do appear to distinguish controversial views from what they see as hate. The majority of the students surveyed (69%), for instance, believe universities should be able to restrict “using slurs and other language on campus that is intentionally offensive to certain groups.”

PRESS RIGHTS THE WAY GO — IN PRINCIPLE 

The wave of protests on college campuses across the country last fall put a spotlight on First Amendment rights, specifically the rights to peacefully assemble and the freedom of the press.

In the survey, seven out of 10 students said “student protestors should not be able to prevent the press from covering protests” on college campuses. But nearly half of respondents indicated some “legitimate” reasons exist to deny reporters access to protesters: when press will be unfair in its reporting (49%); protesters want to be left alone (48%); or protesters want to tell the story themselves on social media (44%).

Black and female college students, it notes, “are more likely than other key subgroups to find each of the reasons as compelling enough to justify denying reporters access to a protest — with solid majorities endorsing each of these reasons.”

And by the way, a majority of college students, 59%, have little or no trust in the press to report the news accurately and fairly.

FREEDOM TO ASSEMBLE?

While 70% of white college students surveyed said they felt their right to peacefully assemble was secure, only 39% of black college students felt the same way.

SOCIAL MEDIA: A GREAT PLATFORM — UNTIL IT’S NOT 

Social media has became an increasingly important platform for debate, and at least eight in 10 college students agree that people use social media to effectively express their views.

But less than half agree that the dialogue is mostly civil, and 74% agree that it is “too easy” to say things anonymously.

Students are also divided on whether social media stifles free expression because people can block those whose views they disagree with or because people are afraid of being attacked online by those who disagree with them.

Source: Gallup: Millennials secure in First Amendment rights | News for College Students | USA TODAY College

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