Over half of Americans believe hate speech is an "act of violence," according to a new study by the Cato Institute.
From the study:
We find that Americans believe free speech has both benefits and costs. First, nearly two-thirds (67%) think that “freedom of speech ensures the truth will ultimately win out” and 58% say free speech does more to protect minority viewpoints. But also, most believe that speech can turn violent: 53% say hate speech is an act of violence and even more say that hate speech leads to violence against minority groups (70%). Ultimately, a majority (56%) think it’s possible to both ban hate speech and still protect free speech.
There are wide racial and partisan divides over how people think free speech operates. Democrats, African Americans, and Latinos are more likely than Republicans and white Americans to believe that hate speech is violent and allows majority views to crowd out minority viewpoints, that supporting a racist’s free speech right is as bad as being a racist, that people who offend others with their ideas have bad intentions, and that we can simultaneously ban hate speech and protect free speech.
It's troubling that over half of Americans believe that society can both "prohibit hate speech and protect free speech." As Cato notes, the issue is most likely that "hate speech" can often be an amorphous idea with varying definitions. For example, many on the left believe that rhetoric used by President Trump to describe illegal immigrants constitutes hate speech.
According to the study's respondents, if such stated beliefs truly are hate speech, then they should be restricted. Otherwise, it could lead to "violence against minority groups."
Citizens in countries like Canada, or the UK for example, are subject to far more onerous speech laws than in the United States. The First Amendment gives United States citizens unique freedoms that should be cherished. To think that over half of Americans want those freedoms infringed upon suggests a naive populace that doesn't fully appreciate the rights granted by free speech protections.