Vox-plaining Free Speech

Does Matt Yglesias know how to read a chart?

Matt Yglesias argues: “Support for free speech is rising, and is higher among liberals and college graduates.”

These are the charts he cites to support his narrative. Let’s see if they tell the same story.

This is good news if you are a homosexual, militarist, antitheist, or Communist. But it’s not particularly good news for free speech as a principle. It should go without saying, but if you’re for censoring speech based on its viewpoint, you’re not actually in favor of free speech. What Yglesias’s chart seems to show is two decades of low and declining support for allowing certain views (racist ones) to be heard.

In recent years, that decline has come almost entirely from two ideological groups: “liberal” and “slightly liberal.”

In general, liberals have a higher level of support for free speech, even for racists — that’s no great revelation — but the trend is sharply downward among most liberals, more than offsetting upticks among the “extremely liberal” and “extremely conservative.”

Finally, are more educated people more supportive of free speech? Well, of course they are. But there, again, the trend is downward.

Among college grads, support for allowing racists to speak has declined 20 points since 1975. Remember, this is the chart Yglesias cited to prove that there is nothing to worry about.

Based on the surveys he cites, Yglesias’s big claim — “Support for free speech is rising, and is higher among liberals and college graduates” — would be more accurately rendered: “support for free speech is inconsistent, and it is declining among liberals and college graduates.”