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Heartland/Rasmussen Poll: 1 in 4 Voters Support Free Speech Bans

December 17, 2020

Although more than half of likely voters say government should not ban speech considered to be offensive, including on social media sites, a large proportion of younger voters support such bans.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL (December 17, 2020) – A new poll by The Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports finds that most likely voters believe freedom of speech should remain robust in the United States.

When asked, “Should federal or state governments ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?,” 56% of likely voters said, “no.” Only 26% of likely voters responded, “yes,” while 18% said they are “not sure.”

Likewise, most likely voters do not think jail time is a reasonable punishment for those who engage in speech a majority of Americans believes to be offensive. When asked, “Should those who violate such bans against offensive speech be punished with jail time?,” 23% of likely voters said “yes.” On the other hand, 55% of likely voters responded “no.” Somewhat surprisingly, 21% of likely voters said they were “not sure” in response to this question.

Our survey, conducted December 6-7, found that support for free-speech bans was significantly higher among younger Americans. Among the respondents aged 18 to 39, 37% said they support a government ban on some speech, compared to just 22% for those aged 40 to 64 and 20% for those aged 65 or older.

Taken together, these results show that a strong majority of likely voters believe the United States should vehemently protect citizens’ right to the freedom of speech. The results also demonstrate that most likely voters are not in favor of free speech bans or harsh punishments for those who violate such bans.

The poll has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

See the full results of the poll below, including some of the key data from the crosstabs.

See the poll results on the Great Reset, released Dec. 16, 2020, here.

The following quotes can be used for attribution. If you’d like to interview a Heartland Institute expert on this topic or other topics, please contact Justin at or Director of Communications Jim Lakely at, or call/text Jim’s cell at 312-731-9364.


“A free society cannot exist without free speech, and yet, one in four Americans now want government to limit the speech rights of their fellow citizens. Even more troubling, the numbers are higher among young people, with about 37 percent of those aged 18 to 39 years old supporting such bans.

“The growing movement to stifle free speech and expression should deeply concern everyone—Republicans and Democrats alike—because protecting the First Amendment is essential for preserving our nation. If this trend continues, it’s unlikely the United States will survive the next half-century.”

Justin Haskins
Editorial Director and Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Co-Lead, Stopping Socialism Project


“Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights in the United States. Without it, our republic cannot survive. Fortunately, most likely voters recognize the fact that free speech must be protected against unwarranted bans and burdens.

“During the past few years, freedom of speech has been under attack, especially by social media sites, which have routinely implemented arbitrary bans on what they deem to be ‘offensive’ speech. Thankfully, a majority of likely voters oppose government adopting these Orwellian tactics to stifle free speech, although the large proportion of young people who support such bans is unquestionably a troubling development.”

Chris Talgo
Editor and Research Fellow
The Heartland Institute

National Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters on Freedom of Speech
Conducted December 6-7, 2020
By The Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports

1. Should federal or state governments ban speech by individuals that a majority of Americans believes to be offensive, including speech on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?

26% Yes
56% No
18% Not sure

INTERESTING NOTE: 37% of young people (18-39 years old) said speech should be banned. Only 51% said no.

2. Should those who violate such bans against offensive speech be punished with jail time?

23% Yes
55% No
21% Not sure

INTERESTING NOTE: 37% of the government workers surveyed who said that speech should be banned by government also said that offensive speech should be punished with jail time—the highest of any demographic in our survey.

Article Tags
Government & Politics
Justin Haskins is the Editorial Director and a Research Fellow at The Heartland Institute. He is also the director of Heartland's Stopping Socialism project. @JustinTHaskins
Chris Talgo is senior editor and research fellow for the Stopping Socialism project of The Heartland Institute.
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