Poll suggests Canadians’ stance on free speech is influenced by their political views

A new poll suggests there is a strong relationship between a person’s political views and their views on free speech in Canada.

Respondents who lean to the right were more likely to believe there should be no limits on speech, including the right to express hateful and offensive views.

The national telephone survey by the Canadian Center for Applied and Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan was conducted between June 1 and June 27. She surveyed 1,000 people about their political leanings and views on free speech.

Research director Jason Disano said he wanted to get a sense of where people stand on the issue « given the prominent role the term ‘freedom’ is playing in the current Conservative Party leadership campaign. Canada ».

He said that overall eight out of 10 respondents – or almost 86% – said they thought they had, or had some, freedom of speech. Most respondents also said they believe governments and companies like Twitter and Meta – formerly known as Facebook – should intervene to limit the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

« But when you break that down into political leanings, that’s when you really see differences in the views and opinions of Canadians as to how much that free speech should be (limited) “, said Disano.

About one in four respondents who lean right to very right believe that Canadians have very little or no freedom of expression, compared to about three percent of respondents on the left who think the same.

« It’s not surprising, » said Barbara Perry, director of the Center of Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.

« If we look at the narrative of the last few years, there has been a focus on cancel culture. Free speech has become a rallying call for the far right. It’s always been there, but I think that it has really been amplified by the rise of the alt-right in particular. »

Disano said the Prairies had the highest proportion of people who identified as right-wing at 31.5%, with Quebecers having the lowest at 18.6%.

In Canada, hate speech is illegal. But in the United States, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, including the right to express hateful comments and offensive opinions.

Survey respondents were asked if they agreed with the Canadian or American approach to limiting speech.

Disano said eight out of 10 respondents agreed with Canada’s approach.

However, around one in three respondents, or 31%, who said they were right-wing supported the American no limit approach, with most respondents – 22.4% – coming from the Prairies and the least coming from Atlantic Canada with 4.5 %. .

As for those leaning to the left, 2.5% of respondents said they too wanted no limits on speech.

Perry said « American free-speech absolutism » emerged in Canada and can be linked to social media.

« We’re not just talking about speech that’s offensive or hurting someone’s feelings, we’re really talking about dangerous speech and speech that has the potential to do harm, » Perry said.

« It comes down to the internet and what they think is an easy access to spread whatever hateful and misguided ideas they want. »

The survey was reliable within plus or minus three percent, with a confidence level of 95 percent.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 11, 2022.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press


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