A new Cato national survey finds that self‐censorship is on the rise in the United States. Nearly two-thirds—62%—of Americans say the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. The share of Americans who self‐censor has risen several points since 2017 when 58% of Americans agreed with this statement.
These fears cross partisan lines. Majorities of Democrats (52%), independents (59%) and Republicans (77%) all agree they have political opinions they are afraid to share.
Strong liberals stand out, however, as the only political group who feel they can express themselves. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of staunch liberals feel they can say what they believe. However, centrist liberals feel differently. A slim majority (52%) of liberals feel they have to self‐censor, as do 64% of moderates, and 77% of conservatives. This demonstrates that political expression is an issue that divides the Democratic coalition between centrist Democrats and their left flank.
Nearly a third (32%) of employed Americans say they personally are worried about missing out on career opportunities or losing their job if their political opinions became known. These results are particularly notable given that most personal campaign contributions to political candidates are public knowledge and can easily be found online.
And it’s not just one side of the political spectrum: 31% of liberals, 30% of moderates and 34% of conservatives are worried their political views could get them fired or harm their career trajectory. This suggests that it’s not necessarily just one particular set of views that has moved outside of acceptable public discourse. Instead these results are more consistent with a “walking on eggshells” thesis that people increasingly fear a wide range of political views could offend others or could negatively impact themselves.
These concerns are also cross‐partisan, although more Republicans are worried: 28% of Democrats, 31% of independents, and 38% of Republicans are worried about how their political opinions could impact their career trajectories.