When Republicans take stock of the national climate for political discourse, they see a much more hospitable environment for Democrats than for members of their own party. About six-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in the United States (63%) think that “Democrats in this country are very comfortable to freely and openly express their political views,” but only about two-in-ten (19%) think Republicans around the nation experience that same level of comfort.
By contrast, Democrats offer a more mixed evaluation of the atmosphere for members of the two parties. Around half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (49%) think Republicans are very comfortable to freely and openly express their views, while a somewhat smaller share (36%) say the same about Democrats, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted this summer.
Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand perceptions about the political climate and free expression of political ideas by Republicans and Democrats. This analysis is based on responses to a set of questions on a survey. We surveyed 10,221 U.S. adults in July 2021. Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
The sense of an unequal environment for political expression is most pronounced among conservative Republicans: 72% think Democrats are very comfortable to freely express their views, while just 15% say the same about Republicans, a 57 percentage point gap. Although moderate and liberal Republicans also are more likely to say Democrats are very comfortable expressing their views than to say this about Republicans, the gap is substantially smaller (25 points).
Differences by ideology are less pronounced among Democrats. Liberal Democrats are somewhat more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to say both that Democrats and Republicans are very comfortable expressing their views.
Overall, public attitudes on this question are little changed from two years ago: 48% of U.S. adults now say that Democrats feel very comfortable expressing their views – identical to the share who said this in April 2019. And 35% say Republicans are very comfortable expressing their views, compared with 36% who said this in 2019.
However, partisan views of Republicans’ comfort expressing their views freely and openly have diverged somewhat since 2019. Republicans are slightly less likely today to say those in their own party are very comfortable expressing their political views (19% say this now, down from 26% then), while Democrats have become slightly more likely to say this of the GOP (49% say this now, up from 45%).