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More Americans Worry Their Political Views Could Cost Them Their Jobs

(Cato Institute) 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…

The survey found that many Americans think a person’s private political donations should impact their employment. Nearly a quarter (22%) of Americans would support firing a business executive who personally donates to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign. Even more, 31% support firing a business executive who donates to Donald Trump’s re‐​election campaign.

Support rises among political subgroups. Support increases to 50% of strong liberals who support firing executives who personally donate to Trump. And more than a third (36%) of strong conservatives support firing an executive for donating to Biden’s presidential campaign.

Young Americans are also more likely than older Americans to support punishing people at work for personal donations to Trump. Forty‐​four percent (44%) of Americans under 30 support firing executives if they donate to Trump. This share declines to 22% among those over 55 years old—a 20‐​point difference. 

32% Worry Their Political Views Could Harm Their Employment

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.

Some are more worried about losing their jobs or missing out on job opportunities because of political views. Those with the highest levels of education are most concerned. Almost half (44%) of Americans with post‐​graduate degrees say they are worried their careers could be harmed if others discovered their political opinions, compared to 34% of college graduates, 28% of those with some college experience, and 25% of high school graduates.

These data suggest that a significant minority of Americans from all political persuasions and backgrounds—particularly younger people who have spent more time in America’s universities—are most likely to hide their views for fear of financial penalty.

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