Students are not ‘snowflakes’ who are hostile to free speech, study shows

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The term snowflake is frequently bandied about, particularly applied to students in the free speech debate.

But, a new poll shows there is little evidence to suggest students adhere to their snowflake stereotype and are no more hostile to free speech than any other demographic.

In order to test students’ attitudes towards free speech, YouGov conducted an experiment to contrast students against the general public by asking if they found controversial statements offensive.

The participants in the study had to decide if they thought it was appropriate for the speaker of the controversial statement to give a speech at a university.

Results suggest there was essentially no difference between the number of students and the general public who would ban the speaker whose views they believe offensive (between 0-4 percentage points in each example).


The students were more likely (by 8-13 percent) to ban three speaker over the general public, while the public is more likely to ban one speaker than students (by 16 percent).

The controversial statements included comments from a speaker who believes the Royal Family should be abolished, another who is pushing for all religions to be banned, a speaker who attempts to justify terror attacks in the UK, a Holocaust denier, a speaker who quite literally believes that God created the universe in six days and another who argues migrants should be banished to the country of origin.

Included in the three speakers that students are more likely to say shouldn’t be allowed to speak, one claims that vaccinations cause autism, one believes that transgender women are not ‘real’ women, and one believes that climate change is not caused by human actions. The one speaker that the general public are more likely to want banned believes the royal family should be abolished.