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Poll shows more people feel they can't speak because of 'cancel culture'


According to a recent national New York Times Opinion/Siena College poll looking at how cancel culture and political partisanship affect free speech in the U.S., over half of the respondents (55%) said there was a time in the last year where they held their tongue for fear of backlash.

About half of those who claim they experienced this said they were afraid of retaliation; about two-thirds said they wanted to avoid harsh criticism, and nearly all were trying to steer clear of conflict.

"There's a reticence for people to simply say, 'This is how I see the issues of the day; this is what I'm thinking,' that we are being shut down in our ability to freely express ourselves," said Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute.

At the same time, almost one in four people admit they have contributed to the problem by retaliating against or shutting down another person who was speaking.

When given examples of controversial topics such as defunding the police or demanding the burning of 'offensive' books, almost a third of the poll respondents took the position that some speech has gone too far and must be silenced.

Levy is most surprised at the degree to which Americans seem to accept a climate in which they can't engage in civil debate.

The poll found only 34 percent of people believe all Americans completely enjoy freedom of speech.

"That alone, to me, is shocking," Levy said. "It's a bedrock of our democracy and without that freedom, then I don't know if we can move on as a constructive democratic republic."

The poll surveyed 1,507 U.S. residents age 18 and older by telephone between Feb. 9 and Feb. 22.

It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.