Fire Poll: Majority Say Cancel Culture Growing Threat to Freedom

Fire Poll: Majority Say Cancel Culture Growing Threat to Freedom an illustration of a man eating the words cancel culture (Dreamstime)

By Eric Mack | Tuesday, 01 February 2022 04:07 PM

A majority of people say there is a "growing cancel culture that is a threat to our freedom," particularly Republicans and independents, according to the latest Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) poll.

FIRE's website outlines its mission to defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America's colleges and universities.

While 73% of respondents acknowledged having heard of the phrase cancel culture before, there were 59% who were convinced it is growing and a threat to our liberties in America, according to the poll.

That 59% figure is buoyed most by Republicans (88%) in agreement with that statement, but independents were a fairly strong majority in agreement (63%). A plurality of Democrats demurred against that statement (45%), while just 34% Democrats agreed.

"A lot of ink has been spilled debating cancel culture," FIRE Vice President of Communications Nico Perrino wrote in a statement. "Do Americans see it as a serious cultural phenomenon? What's its effect on free speech? We aimed to answer some of those questions with actual data. The verdict is in: Americans do see cancel culture as a significant cultural trend that has a real effect on the country's free speech climate."

Democrats are far more on board with deplatforming public figures for speech they deem hateful. More than two-thirds (68.4%) of Democrats agree deplatforming public figures under those conditions is a "good thing." Just 27.4% of Republicans, and around 41% of independents, at least somewhat agree it is a good thing.

"A relative uneasiness with defending 'hateful' expression is nothing new, so these findings may provide a rough ceiling of support for cancel culture behavior, which doesn't always involve allegedly hateful expression," Perrino's statement added. "But before would-be censors get too excited, they should also understand that what one considers 'hateful' frequently varies widely based on one's political views."

A majority of Democrats (54.7%) also at least somewhat believe someone should lose their job "if they say things that are widely considered hateful," while just Republicans (21%) and independents (33%) at least somewhat agree.

Banning speakers at colleges and universities for saying things hateful is also largely supported by Democrats (60% in at least somewhat agreement), but not Republicans (just 34%) or independents (41.6%).

"Cancel culture isn't just about what gets said and then punished," Perrino's statement added. "It's also about what never gets said for fear of punishment. The chilling effect of self-censorship is real — and can have an alarming effect on how Americans communicate."

FIRE's communications partner DeVito/Verdi conducted the poll among 2,500 American adults. No margin of error was given.