National Institute on Aging

Northeastern University Study Find Racial Differences in Views on the First Amendment

In a new study, assistant professor John Wihbey and associate professor Brooke Foucault Welles of Northeastern University in Boston analyzed 15 years’ worth of surveys of high school students conducted by the Knight Foundation to illuminate the broad trends among young people as they relate to the First Amendment.

A major conclusion of the study is that White students are less inclined than students of color to agree with the statement: “The First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.”

The authors speculate that the First Amendment is increasingly invoked – especially online – as a defense for extreme speech and hate speech.

“Freedom of speech is often invoked as a cover for online harassment, and we know that women and people of color are more likely to be harassed than White men,” notes Brooke Foucault Welles, an associate professor in the department of communication studies at Northeastern University. “Because of that, women and people of color might be more conscious of the damage that can be done under the name of ‘freedom of speech.’”

The study, “High School Student Views on the First Amendment: Trends in the 21st Century,” may be downloaded by clicking here.


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