Study: Conservative Students Are Far More Tolerant than Liberal Students

Michael Foust | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Study: Conservative Students Are Far More Tolerant than Liberal Students

Study: Conservative Students Are Far More Tolerant than Liberal Students


A new study backs up the conventional wisdom among conservatives that college campuses are a hotbed of intolerance toward those who aren’t liberal.

The survey of more than 1,000 undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that while most professors who discuss politics are fair to both sides, a large segment of students are not.

In fact, conservative students – according to the study – are more tolerant toward other viewpoints than are liberal students. 

Specifically, the study found that 19 percent of liberal students but only 3 percent of conservative students believe it is appropriate to “create an obstruction” so that a campus speaker who holds “objectionable” political views cannot address the audience. Similarly, 19 percent of liberal students and only 1 percent of conservative students say it’s OK to “form a picket line to block students” from entering an event with a speaker who has objectionable views. The Atlantic was the first to report on the study

The liberal students were asked to consider “objectionable” content a speaker might address, such as “same-sex marriages should not be recognized as valid in the United States” and “the United States should build a wall on its southern border to decrease undocumented/illegal immigration.”

“Although students across the political spectrum report facing challenges related to free expression, these challenges seem to be more acute for students who identify as conservative,” the authors of the study wrote. 

Meanwhile, 23 percent of liberal students and 3 percent of conservative students say they are not willing to be friends with someone from the opposite ideology (a conservative friend for a liberal student, and vice versa). Thirty-five percent of liberal students and 6 percent of conservative students are not open to being roommates with someone from the opposite ideology.

The finding, the authors wrote, support “the conclusion that conservative students at UNC face particular obstacles to integrating themselves into the broader campus community.” 

“Positive social engagement across political boundaries may increase all students’ respect for each other and their capacity to engage in constructive dialogue,” the authors wrote. 

This lack of interaction may impact the way students talk about each other. Among conservative students, 12 percent report hearing “inappropriate comments” several times a semester about political liberals. But among liberal students, 57 percent say they hear inappropriate comments about political conservatives several times a semester.

“The evidence ... suggests that UNC community members have not internalized norms of respect and civility toward conservatives to the same extent they have toward other groups,” the authors wrote.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/IPG Gutenberg UK Ltd 


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity TodayThe Christian PostThe Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.