About two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) say that “people being too easily offended” is a major problem in the country today, while a slimmer majority – 53% – say that “people saying offensive things to others” is a major problem, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in July.
When looking at Americans’ views on these two questions taken together, nearly four-in-ten (37%) say that people being too easily offended by things others say and people saying very offensive things to others are both major problems in the country. By comparison, fewer single out one, but not the other: 28% say that people taking offense too easily is a major problem, but very offensive speech is not; 16% say that people saying very offensive things is a major problem, but don’t say the same of people too easily taking offense. About two-in-ten (19%) say that neither is a major problem in the country.
There are substantial differences in these views between Republicans and Democrats, as well as by race and ethnicity.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents overwhelmingly say people being too easily offended by what others say is a major problem – 84% say this. By comparison, half of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the same.
Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand the public’s views on giving and taking offense in the country today. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,221 U.S. adults in July 2021. Everyone who took part in this 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.
Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.
In contrast, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that “people saying things that are very offensive to others” is a major problem in the country today: 63% of Democrats say this, compared with 40% of Republicans.
Sizable shares within both parties say both issues are major problems – 35% of Republicans and 38% of Democrats say this.
However, nearly half of Republicans (48%), compared with just 12% of Democrats, say people being too easily offended is a major problem but do not say the same about people saying very offensive things. Slightly more than half of conservative Republicans (53%) hold this combination of views, together with 40% of moderate and liberal Republicans.
By contrast, a quarter of Democrats – and a third of liberal Democrats – say people saying very offensive things to others is a major problem, but that people being too easily offended is not. Just 5% of Republicans hold this combination of views. And while a quarter of Democrats say neither of these is a major problem, just 12% of Republicans say this.
While at least half of Americans across racial and ethnic groups say being too easily offended is a major problem in the country, White adults are particularly likely to say this: 70% of White adults say this is a major problem, as do 62% of Hispanic adults, 53% of Black adults and 50% of Asian adults. No more than one-in-ten in any of these groups say people getting offended too easily is not a problem in the country today.
Men (66%) and women (65%) are about equally likely to say people being too easily offended is a major problem.
Women (60%) are far more likely than men (45%) to say offensive speech is a major problem. And White adults (47%) are less likely than Black (69%), Hispanic (62%) and Asian adults (57%) to express the view that it is a very big problem.
Within the two parties, there are differences by gender as well as race and ethnicity in some views of the problems these two issues pose.
On whether people being too easily offended is a major problem, Hispanic Republicans (75%) are less likely than White Republicans (86%) to say this is a major problem, while Hispanic Democrats (57%) are more likely than other racial and ethnic groups within their party to see it as a major problem.
There are no gaps between men and women in either party on whether taking offense too easily is a major problem.
But when it comes to offensive speech being a major problem, there are differences in each party between men and women. Both Democratic (67%) and Republican women (50%) are more likely than the men in their parties to say people saying very offensive things to others is a major problem. About six-in-ten Democratic men (58%) express the same view, but only about a third of men in the GOP (32%) say people expressing offensive things to others is a major problem.
Hispanic Republicans (53%) are more likely than White Republicans (38%) to say that very offensive speech is a major problem for the country today. And while roughly seven-in-ten Black (71%) and Hispanic Democrats (67%) say very offensive speech is a major issue, narrower majorities of White and Asian Democrats (59% in each group) share that view.