How well do Americans tolerate offensive speech?- Pew study

According to the data, 65% of adults found the former statement a major problem in America today, while a smaller majority of 53% said the latter is a major issue. 

TWO SUPPORTERS of US President Donald Trump hold American flags during a ‘Stop the Steal’ protest in North Las Vegas, Wednesday. (photo credit: STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS)
TWO SUPPORTERS of US President Donald Trump hold American flags during a ‘Stop the Steal’ protest in North Las Vegas, Wednesday.
(photo credit: STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS)

Do Americans consider offensive speech a major problem?

A new Pew Research Center analysis of a July survey found that more than half of US adults find “people being too easily offended” or “people saying offensive things to others” very problematic. 

According to the data, which looked at 10,221 US adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel, 65% of adults found the former statement a major problem in America today, while a smaller majority of 53% said the latter is a major issue. 

The findings also revealed that nearly four-in-ten (37%) say that people being too easily offended by things others say and people saying very offensive things to others are both major problems in the country.

In contrast, fewer single out one, but not the other: 28% say that people taking offense too easily is a major problem, but very offensive speech is not; 16% say that people saying very offensive things is a major problem, but don’t say the same of people too easily taking offense. About two-in-ten (19%) say that neither is a major problem in the US. 

A CHILD salutes the American flag.JEFF TURNER/FLICKRA CHILD salutes the American flag.JEFF TURNER/FLICKR

Race, ethnicity, and political views also played a role in the analysis. 

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents overwhelmingly say people being too easily offended by what others say is a major problem – 84% say this. By comparison, half of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the same. In contrast, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that “people saying things that are very offensive to others” is a major problem in the country today: 63% of Democrats say this, compared with 40% of Republicans. Sizable shares within both parties say both issues are major problems – 35% of Republicans and 38% of Democrats say this.

White adults were particularly likely to being too easily offended is a major problem: 70% of White adults say this is a major problem, as do 62% of Hispanic adults, 53% of Black adults and 50% of Asian adults. No more than one-in-ten in any of these groups say people getting offended too easily is not a problem in the country today.

Gender has an impact, too.

Men (66%) and women (65%) are about equally likely to say people being too easily offended is a major problem, but women (60%) are far more likely than men (45%) to say offensive speech is a major problem.