Study: Self-censorship is widespread in 2022 as American free speech disappears

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, August 21, 2022

Americans are experiencing an epidemic of self-censorship fueled by social pressure from leftists who threaten to ruin the lives of those who would publicly go against their narrative on everything from vaccines to race to life-altering transgender surgeries for children.

The difference between the publicly-stated opinions of Americans and their actual beliefs when granted privacy is significant, according to a study by Massachusetts-based Populace.

“The pressure to misrepresent our private views — to offer answers on politically and socially sensitive questions that are out of sync with our true beliefs — is pervasive in society today,” said the study, which Populace conducted between May 23 and June 8 of this year. “Across all demographics, every subgroup had multiple issues with at least a double-digit gap between public and private opinion.”

In the study, 6 in 10 said mask-wearing was an effective way to stop the spread of Covid when asked for their public opinion. Privately, only 47% actually believed this. Women and Hispanics were the two subgroups with the biggest gap between their public position and their true beliefs.

“The report also asked whether we should get back to normal life without any COVID mandates. Black and Hispanic respondents were much more likely to answer in the negative when their public beliefs were measured — but in truth were much more supportive of going back to normal than they were willing to let on publicly,” Brad Polumbo noted in an Aug. 20 report for the Washington Examiner.

On abortion, the study found that 67% of respondents, asked for their public stance, said that whether a woman can have an abortion should solely be between her and her doctor. But privately, only 58% agreed with this sentiment. Men in particular had a huge gap, with 60% offering public support for this notion but only 45% actually agreeing in private.

When asked whether teaching K-3 students about gender identity was inappropriate, 63% publicly say yes. But only 53% actually agreed with this sentiment when granted privacy. However, the political disparity on this issue was significantly greater than on other issues. The private-public range for Republicans was 88-90% and 30-37% for Democrats.

“It is essential to understand the extent to which people are misrepresenting their views today, because when preference falsification becomes widespread in a society it can result in collective illusions that drive false polarization, erode trust, and hold back social progress,” the Populace study concluded.

Polumbo added: “The tremendous societal value of free speech is that through open, honest debate, good ideas win out over time. Free speech was vital, for example, in the civil rights movement. Originally unpopular ideas often prove right and just over time if they’re able to be expressed despite their unpopularity. But if people are so intimidated of social repercussions or even being fired that they can’t even say their true opinion, then the free exchange of ideas that leads to progress over time is stifled.”

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