Youngsters 'are less opposed than older people to no-platforming'

Youngsters 'are less opposed than older people to no-platforming'

June 6, 2021

Free speech dilemma as poll suggests youngsters are less opposed than older people to ‘no platforming’ speakers at universities

  • Young people are less opposed to ‘no platforming’ speakers, poll suggests
  • 17% of the people polled by King’s College London supported no-platforming
  • Research found the majority of Britons  think people are too easily offended 

Young people are less opposed to ‘no platforming’ controversial speakers at universities than older people, a poll suggests.

While half of the public is against barring speakers because of their views, only a third (32 per cent) of those aged 16 to 24 oppose the practice, compared to 60 per cent of over-55s. 

Just 17 per cent of the 2,800 people polled by King’s College London supported no-platforming. 

Recent examples include the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd being barred from addressing Oxford students last year because of her role in the Windrush scandal. Under Government plans, academics, students or speakers will be able to seek compensation if their right to free speech is stymied.

The research also found that the majority of Britons – some 55 per cent – think people are too easily offended.

Recent examples include the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd being barred from addressing Oxford students last year

As for political correctness, three-quarters (76 per cent) of over-55s think it has gone too far – but the younger generation is far less likely to agree, with just 38 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds.

The survey found that 53 per cent of the public think universities should expose students to all types of viewpoints, even if they are offensive to certain groups.

The government has taken a strong stance against no-platforming, which they say is incompatible with free speech and the real aims of academia.

In response, the government plans to introduce a ‘free speech champion’, while academics, students or visiting speakers will able to seek compensation if their right to free speech is stymied.

For the first time, students’ unions at universities would also be required to take steps to secure lawful free-dom of speech for members and visiting speakers, under a government bill.

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the policy institute at King’s College London, said: ‘Large proportions of the public start from the perspective that political correctness has gone too far, and that other people are too sensitive.

‘Many have a clear view that ‘no-platforming’ is not the best response, and that young people should be ex-posed to controversial views.

‘There are, however, very different perspectives on this depending on your age and political identities – our views of political correctness are one of the clearest dividing lines in ‘culture war’ issues.’

He added: ‘But we need to avoid concluding that this means we have a new generation of ‘snowflakes’ or a stifled national conversation: the young are always quite different from older people on these sorts of questions, and the large majority of the public still say they are happy to express their views on controversial issues with others.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We recognise that many share the values of free speech and ac-ademic freedom and know the chilling effect on campuses that can arise from censorship and no-platforming.

‘That is why we have introduced our landmark Freedom of Speech bill on the issue, to strengthen and further enable the efforts of those who are working within higher education to ensure that these values are protected.’

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