Disturbing number of students say 'offensive jokes' could be hate speech

  • A new survey finds that a majority of students say that offensive jokes could constitute hate speech.
  • Sixty percent of respondents to a recent College Pulse survey said so, while just 24 percent said no.

A new survey finds that the overwhelming majority of college students say that offensive jokes could constitute hate speech. 

College Pulse recently released results of a survey conducted in February, which found that 60 percent of U.S. college students responded "yes" when asked, "can offensive jokes ever constitute hate speech?" Just 24 percent said that offensive jokes are not hate speech, while 16 percent were "not sure." 

"these numbers are absolutely devastating"   

The survey further broke down its findings, noting that 76 percent of self-identified Democrats said that offensive jokes could constitute hate speech. Among Republicans, 36 percent said the same. Just over half (54 percent) of independents said that offensive jokes could be considered as hate speech. 

[RELATED: POLL: Most young Americans support 'hate speech' exemption in First Amendment]


Respondents who identified as LGBTQ (72 percent) were much more likely to say offensive jokes could be hate speech. Fifty-five percent of "straight" respondents said the same. Females (67 percent) were also more likely than males (49 percent) to label offensive jokes as hate speech. Of the respondents who identified as "non-binary" gender, 79 percent agreed that offensive jokes could be hate speech. 

The results came just six months after another survey found that 59 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 said that they support a "hate speech" exemption in the First Amendment. Yet another survey reported by Campus Reform in May 2019 found that 41 percent of students said that "hate speech" is not free speech. 

[RELATED: Disturbing number of students say hate speech is not free speech, report says]

"These numbers are absolutely devastating," Speech First President Nicole Neily told Campus Reform when responding to the October survey. 

"They reflect a profound misunderstanding not only of the importance of free speech, but also of the history of free speech and the First Amendment. Free speech is not a partisan issue. It's a right that benefits all Americans, and in particular, the powerless, the unpopular, and minority viewpoints. A government that has the authority to decide what speech is acceptable and what is not can very easily squelch dissent - and that should concern everyone," she added. 

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Jon Street
Jon Street | Managing Editor

Jon Street is a news editor for Campus Reform. Six years ago, Jon cut his reporting teeth fresh out of college as an intern at Media Research Center's CNSNews.com, where he interviewed multiple members of Congress and former presidential candidates. From there, he went on to complete a stint at Watchdog.org, where his exclusive, investigative work was picked up or cited by the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, National Review, and the Drudge Report, among others. More recently, Jon spent three years as an assistant editor at TheBlaze.com. In his free time, Jon enjoys trying new coffeehouses around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and traveling back to his home state of Missouri to spend time with his family.

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