Thompson Center Research

The First Amendment Under Stress: A Survey of UW-Madison Students’ Views on Free Speech and Religious Liberties

View a PDF version of the survey report: Thompson Center First Amendment Survey.

Executive Summary

The Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Survey Center, surveyed 530 undergraduate students at UW-Madison about their views on free speech and religious liberties. The results are troubling. As this report describes, many UW students do not understand what constitutes protected speech or activity under the First Amendment. Moreover, some of their responses reveal substantial opposition to established free speech principles and religious liberties.

Among other findings:

  • Nearly 40% of students believe the government should restrict the speech of climate change deniers;
  • Over 50% of students believe government should restrict the speech of racially insensitive people;
  • 63% believe government should punish hate speech;
  • Over 35% believe that public institutions should be allowed to revoke invitations to speakers who might offend someone; and
  • 53% believe that employers’ religious beliefs should give way when it comes to providing goods or services, like contraceptives or abortion coverage, that violate their religious beliefs.

What is more, consistent with other recent polls, we observe significant differences between male and female respondents, with females nearly always more supportive of speech restrictions than males. Similarly, liberals are nearly always more restrictive of speech than conservatives.

These results show that many students find it difficult to distinguish between, on the one hand, the moral concerns of speech or activities that are contested or even detestable and, on the other, the long run value derived from free speech and religious liberty. Of course, students are not alone in this regard. Numerous surveys show that the public is often more supportive of free speech in the abstract than in specific cases. Nevertheless, the results are troublesome for an institution like UW-Madison, which must cultivate an unfettered marketplace of ideas and instantiate and inculcate those values among its students. The results are further troubling when taken in conjunction with other findings that the views between younger and older generations are “as wide as they have been in decades” and that younger people are more supportive of limiting speech than older generations.

It is critical that UW students develop a stronger competency with respect to First Amendment protections. As such, we offer a handful of policies that UW-Madison and the UW-System might consider to address these critical concerns.

Background

The Thompson Center’s survey of UW-Madison undergraduate students resides within the broader context of American constitutional law, liberty, and UW-Madison’s guiding principles. Free governments and free people require free speech and religious liberty if they are to thrive. The U.S. Supreme Court and Wisconsin Supreme Court both have affirmed time and again the centrality of free speech and religious liberty to our constitutional tradition. UW-Madison governs itself by the bedrock principle of academic freedom. The UW even enshrines its commitment to academic freedom on Bascom Hall, stating: “Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe, that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.” The notion of fearless sifting and winnowing, no less than free speech itself, is the recognition that as a society we must allow even objectionable speech to exist because a government that muzzles speech or controls religion is a government that inevitably will eradicate liberty.

Survey Methods

Between October 20, 2020 and November 9, 2020, the Thompson Center and the UW Survey Center fielded an online study of 530 undergraduates at UW-Madison to determine their views of free speech and religious liberties. Respondents varied in age from 18 to 40, with 98% of respondents falling between the ages of 18-23. First year students represented 34% of the sample; second year students represented 25%; third year students represented 23%; fourth year students represented 17%; and fifth year students represented 2%. The survey slightly over-represented females (60%)—they actually represent roughly 52% of students at UW-Madison. Consistent with the perceived liberal tilt among UW students and reported generational differences in political preferences in the general population, 75% identified as social liberals and 11% identified as social conservatives; 44% identified as economic liberals and 30% as economic conservatives. (More information on the characteristics of respondents, as well as responses to questions we do not discuss here, can be found in the full set of results contained in the appendix.)

The questions broke down into five categories: “hate speech;” offensive or uncomfortable speech; the media; compelled speech; and religious liberties.

“Hate Speech”

The United States Supreme Court has not defined hate speech, nor has it identified it as speech subject to less constitutional protection. In a recent case, the Court reiterated: “[The claim that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend… strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate’.”

Nevertheless, media and other outlets often refer to hate speech as a unique kind of speech that may (or ought to) receive less protection. We sought to determine students’ views on hate speech, whether the government should prohibit it, and whether students should be able to prevent others from engaging in it.

To begin, we asked: “Some people have argued that there is something called hate speech. They define it as abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The government should be able to punish hate speech?”

More than 63% of respondents agreed that the government should be able to punish hate speech. (We define “agreed” as meaning the respondent either “slightly agreed,” “somewhat agreed,” or “strongly agreed” with the statement.)

Table 1: “The government should be able to punish hate speech.”

Not surprisingly, respondents differed systematically in their views. We examined respondent characteristics like sex, ideology, race, age, years attending UW, political knowledge, and similar factors. Here and nearly everywhere else throughout the study, we observe significant differences between (a) males and females, and (b) liberals and conservatives. (Few other factors systematically correlated with support for or against restrictions on speech.) Females favored punishing hate speech significantly more than males. Whereas just under 47% of males agreed that the government should be able to punish hate speech, nearly 75% of females agreed that it should.

Figure 1: Respondents, by sex, who believed government should be able to punish hate speech.

Ideology also predicts support for government punishment of hate speech. We focus here on respondents’ self-reported economic liberalism, though the results are substantively similar if we instead examine respondents’ self-reported social liberalism. Self-identified economic liberals were more likely than self-identified economic conservatives to support government punishment of hate speech.

Figure 2: Support for the claim that government should punish hate speech, by ideology.

We next asked students how much they agreed with the statement that “a person should be able to prevent another person from speaking if they believe that person’s speech is hateful.” 45% of students agreed that a person should prevent another person from speaking under such conditions. Females again supported such restrictions more than males. Whereas 29.0% of male respondents agreed that a person should be able to prevent another person from speaking if they believe that person’s speech is hateful, 56.6% of female respondents agreed.

Table 2: “A person should be able to prevent another person from speaking if they believe that person’s speech is hateful.”

We also broke down the responses to this question among economic liberals and economic conservatives. Self-identified liberals were far more supportive of speech restrictions than conservatives. Roughly 62.2% of all liberals agreed that a person should be able to prevent another person from speaking if they believe that person’s speech is hateful, with 64.6% of very liberal respondents agreeing with the statement. Conversely, only 18.1% of conservatives supported such speech restrictions, with a mere 14.5% of very conservative students supporting it.

Table 3: “A person should be able to prevent another person from speaking if they believe that person’s speech is hateful.”

Next, we asked students whether the government should restrict the speech of specific speakers. Among all respondents, 55% believed the government should restrict the speech of holocaust deniers while 45% believed the government should not.  As Figures 3 and 4 reveal, however, female respondents and liberals supported such restrictions significantly more than males and conservatives. 64.6% of female respondents believed the government should restrict the speech of holocaust deniers while 40.6% of male respondents did. 30.8% of liberals believed the government should restrict such speech while 10.0% of conservatives did.

Table 4: “Government should restrict the speech of holocaust deniers.”

Figure 3: Support for the claim that government should restrict the speech of holocaust deniers, by sex.

Figure 4: Support for the claim the claim that government should restrict the speech of holocaust deniers, by ideology.

We observed similar results when we asked whether the government should restrict the speech of racially insensitive persons. Among all students, 53% believed the government should restrict the speech of racially insensitive persons; 47% believed the government should not.  Females and liberals largely drive these results. 66.6% of female respondents believed that government should restrict the speech of racially insensitive persons, while 34.3% of male respondents did. Looking at ideology, 29.6% of liberals supported restricting speech while 9.7% of conservatives did.

Table 5: Responses to: “Government should restrict the speech of racially insensitive persons.”

Figure 5: Support for the claim that government should restrict the speech of racially insensitive people, by sex.

Figure 6: Support for the claim that government should restrict the speech of racially insensitive people, by ideology.

Offensive or Uncomfortable Speech

Moving to offensive or uncomfortable speech, we asked students whether they agreed with the following statement: “speech should not be regulated even if it makes others feel uncomfortable.” A positive response supported free speech principles while a negative response opposed free speech. 36% of all respondents offered a negative response. That is, 36% of students believed that the government should regulate legal speech if it makes others “feel” uncomfortable. It is worth pointing out that the question did not offer any definition of when a “feeling” of discomfort objectively is reasonable.

Liberals supported restrictions on speech more than conservatives. 41.7% of very liberal respondents supported speech restrictions while only 14.5% of very conservative respondents did.

Table 6: “Speech should not be regulated even if it makes others feel uncomfortable.”

The previous findings regarding sex continue to hold. Whereas only 26.6% of male respondents agreed that speech should be regulated when it makes others uncomfortable, 42.4% of female respondents thought it should.

Figure 7: Support for the claim that speech should not be regulated even if it makes others feel uncomfortable, by sex.

We next asked students: “Should government restrict the speech of Climate Change Deniers?” 38% said yes while 62% said no. The divide between males and females continues, with 24.6% of males agreeing that government should restrict their speech and 47.6% of females agreeing. In terms of ideology, 23.2% of liberals supported restricting speech while 4.8% of conservatives did.

Table 7: “Government should restrict the speech of climate change deniers.”

Figure 8: Support for the claim that government should restrict the speech of climate change deniers, by sex.

Figure 9: Support for the claim that government should restrict the speech of climate change deniers, by ideology.

In recent years, universities and other institutions have come under fire for canceling planned speaking events because of opposition to the invited speakers. For example, the College of the Atlantic revoked an invitation to the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo for a speech he planned to give on judging and the judiciary. Williams College revoked an invitation to Suzanne Venker because of her criticism of modern feminism. Creighton University canceled the commencement speech of former Senator Bob Kerrey because of his liberal views on abortion. Is it appropriate for institutions to cancel speeches because some people at those institutions dislike the speaker or the speech?

To understand students’ answers to this question, we asked them whether they agreed with the following statement: “Public institutions should revoke invitations to guest speakers when the speakers’ remarks would likely offend someone.” A sizable number of students supported disinviting speakers under such conditions. Just over 35% of respondents thought it permissible to cancel someone’s speech because another person might be offended by it.

Support for this so-called “cancel culture” breaks down by ideology and sex. Whereas 46.2% of liberals supported revoking invitations to guest speakers when their remarks would likely offend someone, 23.1% of conservatives (and 0.09% of very conservative students) supported such practices.

Table 8: “Public institutions should revoke invitations to guest speakers when the speakers’ remarks would likely offend someone”

Figure 10: Support for the claim that public institutions should revoke invitations to guest speakers when the speakers’ remarks would likely offend someone, by sex.

Of course, threats to free speech principles exist beyond university settings. Some people have expressed concern that for-profit and non-profit institutions have become more censorious in recent years. Others see the development as greater corporate social responsibility. To be sure, the First Amendment does not apply to private actors. But asking questions about speech in the private sector can give us an understanding of students’ broader views on speech.

We asked students—who are, after all, future workers and CEOs—whether it is appropriate for a person to lose his or her job for saying “something that makes a co-worker feel uncomfortable, even when the comment is legal.” More specifically, we asked their agreement with the following statement: “A person should not lose his or her job because they say something that makes a co-worker feel uncomfortable, even when the comment is legal.” More than 44% of respondents disagreed with the statement that it is inappropriate for someone to lose his or her job under such conditions.  The responses suggest, in other words, that many students are comfortable tying a person’s livelihood to their speech and beliefs, a dangerous proposition.

Once again, the data reveal significant differences between liberals and conservatives. 63.1% of all liberals—and 72.9% of very liberal students—support firing a person for making uncomfortable (though legal) remarks, while 21.3% of all conservatives—and only 0.09% of very conservative students—support it.

Table 9: “A person should not lose his or her job because they say something that makes a co-worker feel uncomfortable, even when the comment is legal.”

Stark differences emerge once again when it comes to respondent’s sex. Males supported such employee terminations less than females. 29.9% of males supported terminating employees under such conditions, while 55.3% of females supported it.

Figure 11: Support for the claim that people should not be fired for saying something legal but uncomfortable, by sex.

The Media

A significant number of students also supported government restrictions on the media. We asked students whether they agreed with the following statement: “Government should be able to take action against news media that publish content that is biased.” We did not provide them with a definition of “bias,” nor did we define what it means for a government to “take action” against the media.

35% of students agreed that government should take action against biased media. Interestingly, the polarization we typically observe between liberals and conservatives disappears, as conservatives are just as likely as liberals to support government action against biased media. Among liberal respondents, 31% supported government action against biased media while 34% of conservatives did.

The strong divide between males and females remains, though, with 23.7% of males supporting action against the media but 42.1% of females supporting it.

Figure 12: Support for the claim that government should be able to take action against news media that publish biased content, by sex.

The survey also focused on social media. The Federal Communications Commission and political actors recently have re-examined the merits of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides social media companies immunity from liability when they host or moderate content generated by others. We sought to explore students’ views of the conditions under which social media companies should regulate content. We asked students whether social media companies should monitor speech on their platforms in order to remove offensive speech and views. We also asked whether social media companies should restrict users based on the content of their posts.

Similar to other polls, though to a greater degree, 63.8% of respondents believed that social media companies should remove “offensive speech” from their platforms. Moreover, 52.8% believed that social media companies should restrict users based on the content of their speech.

Table 10: “Each social media company should monitor speech on its platform for the purpose of removing offensive speech and views” and “Social media companies should not restrict users based on the content of their posts.”

Once again, we observe polarization between liberals and conservatives (not shown here) and men and women. 48.8% of males believe that social media companies should monitor speech on their platforms and remove offensive speech and views, while 75.2% of females believe it. Similarly, 40.6% of males and 62.1% of females disagree that social media companies should not restrict users based on the content of their posts.

Figure 13: Support for the claim that each social media company should monitor speech on its platform for the purpose of removing offensive speech and views, by sex.

Figure 14: Support for the claim that social media companies should not restrict users based on the content of their posts, by sex.

Compelled Speech

We next asked students questions that focused on compelled speech, or, being forced to pay for speech with which they disagree. This is a particularly relevant topic to UW-Madison because the U.S. Supreme Court examined the constitutionality of its student segregated fee policy two decades ago in Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth.  There, the Court concluded that “the First Amendment does not preclude a public university from charging its students an activity fee that is used to support student organizations that engage in extracurricular speech, provided that the money is allocated to those groups by use of viewpoint-neutral criteria.”  UW-Madison administration celebrated the decision in a press release on March 22, 2000, entitled U.S. Supreme Court upholds free speech in Southworth case, UW leaders say.

We asked students whether they agreed with the following statement: “A student who attends college should be required to pay a mandatory fee to support activities of student groups, even if it includes groups with whom the student sincerely disagrees.” Interestingly, 69% of students opposed a mandatory segregated fee. Only 14.5% of students supported one. (We asked a similar question regarding mandatory union dues, not shown here, and students returned similarly lopsided responses opposing those compelled fees.) Liberals were considerably more likely than conservatives to support such fees, but no significant differences existed between male and female respondents.

Table 11: Responses to: “A student who attends college should be required to pay a mandatory fee to support activities of student groups, even if it includes groups with whom the student sincerely disagrees.”

Religious Liberties

Turning to religious liberties, we asked students their agreement with the following statement: “Government should be allowed to provide state financial aid to parents who send their children to private religious schools.” Among all students, 64.2% opposed government providing financial aid to parents to send their children to private religious schools.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the results diverge based on the respondents’ economic ideologies. Among very liberal respondents, 84.4% opposed financial aid for religious schools while 40% of very conservative respondents opposed it (a surprisingly high number).  Respondents differed slightly based on sex, with 58.9% of males opposing the financial aid and 68.8% of females opposing it, but those differences are not statistically significant.

Table 12: “Government should be allowed to provide state financial aid to parents who send their children to private religious schools.”

We next asked students about school prayer, requesting their views on the following statement: “K-12 public schools should be able to set aside 15 minutes during the school day for students to practice their religion independently and without school direction.” Among all respondents, 34.3% opposed public schools setting aside such time while 45.8% supported doing so. Economic liberalism had a weak effect, with conservatives slightly more likely than liberals to support student time for religion. The bigger effect came from sex, with women more supportive of independent prayer time than men.

Table 13: Responses to: “K-12 public schools should be able to set aside 15 minutes during the school day for students to practice their religion independently and without school direction.”

Figure 15: Support for the claim that K-12 public schools should be able to set aside 15 minutes during the school day for students to practice their religion independently and without school direction, by sex.

Finally, we asked students about the ability of a religious business owner to avoid activities that violate his or her religious beliefs. We asked their agreement with the following statement: “A business owner who has a sincere religious objection to providing a certain good or service to an employee or customer, such as contraceptives or abortion, should be allowed to refrain from doing so.

52.5% of students disagreed, believing that one’s religious beliefs should give way when it comes to providing goods or services such as contraceptives or abortion. Self-identified economic liberals were significantly more likely to oppose religious liberties than self-identified economic conservatives. (The responses of economic conservatives and social conservatives were nearly identical.) Among very liberal respondents, 80.2% opposed the business owner exercising his or her religious liberty, while 23.6% of very conservative respondents opposed it.

Table 14: “A business owner who has a sincere religious objection to providing a certain good or service to an employee or customer, such as contraceptives or abortion, should be allowed to refrain from doing so.”

Once again, the data reveal significant differences between males and females. A majority (54.6%) of male respondents agreed that a business owner with religious scruples against contraceptives or abortion should not be forced to act against those religious beliefs. On the other hand, a significant majority (63.7%) of female respondents believed the business owner must provide employees or customers contraceptives or abortion despite their religious scruples. In fact, the divide among male and female respondents here is among the starkest in the data.

Figure 16: Support for the claim that a business owner who has a sincere religious objection to providing a certain good or service to an employee or customer, such as contraceptives or abortion, should be allowed to refrain from doing so, by sex.

Moving Forward

These results show that the student body is not fully aware of the importance of free speech and religious liberty in American law and society. What is more, the findings are at odds with UW-Madison’s stated dedication to academic freedom and freedom of expression. Indeed, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents recently adopted a policy entitled Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression that applies to all UW System students, employees, and visitors with the purpose of communicating its “commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

Despite the fact that UW-Madison conveys its academic freedom policy through extracurricular briefings and e-newsletters, the findings of this survey show that more needs to be done. UW-Madison must do more to instill in its students a deeper respect for and understanding of the First Amendment, its protections, and the importance of an unfettered marketplace of ideas. UW-Madison, and the UW-System as a whole, may wish to consider a number of policy options to address these concerns.

One option would be to require students to receive some instruction on the First Amendment or otherwise show First Amendment competency in order to graduate.  It is clear that many students do not understand the values underlying the First Amendment and free speech. The university should teach them.

The university could pursue various alternatives in terms of instruction. One alternative would be to require all students to take a class offered in the law school or political science department on the First Amendment. Like other general education requirements (such as the requirement that each student take three credits of ethnic studies to graduate), the requirement would ensure that students graduate with requisite skills “to participate effectively and respectfully in a multicultural society, including in the workplace.” This alternative would require increased staffing to meet the teaching demands but would be simple to administer.

Another alternative would be to require departments or colleges to include First Amendment relevant topics in their courses. The course in which the instruction is provided could include a foundation in the First Amendment followed by a series of case studies relevant to each department in question.  For example, the School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences and School of Journalism could include studies on such topics as media censorship, defamation, and disinformation. This alternative would be cheaper for the university, due to less staffing needs, but would be more complex as the content would vary based on class and department.

The university could also engage in a more exhaustive First Amendment training for all incoming freshman and transfer students. The university could require those students to take  an online training and test, similar to those currently conducted by Human Resources, that goes beyond the current practice of “conversations” and “messaging” during the student orientation process.

Surely, there are other options that the university may wish to consider. Our goal here was not to advocate for a particular reform but, rather, to show that we have a problem and spur a discussion on how to address it.

 

*          *          *

 

In Cohen v. Virginia, the Supreme Court determined that a war protester’s jacket, which said: “F**k the Draft,” conveyed protected speech. In his majority opinion, Justice John Marshall Harlan II revealed the subjective and ever-changing concept of “appropriate” speech. What one person deems inappropriate or even harmful today may be seen differently by others. As he put it: “…one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.” His opinion recognized that the First Amendment protects speech—even highly detestable speech—because the long-term benefits of free speech outweigh any short-term benefits from quelling it. A government strong enough to control speech is powerful enough to control thought. And the loss of free speech is always just one generation away. The results of our survey suggest that students need greater exposure to the value of free speech and religious liberties. The university should find ways to make that happen.

 


Survey Questions

Q1: Are you 18 years old or older?

Q3: We would like to start with a series of questions about government and civics. Which part of the Constitution states the following? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Q4: What job or political office does Nancy Pelosi currently hold?

Q5: Which party currently has a majority in the U.S. Senate?

Q6: The next questions are about your opinions.

Some people have argued that there is something called “hate speech.” They define it as “abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.” How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

“The government should be able to punish hate speech.”

Q7: Regardless of what you think the law currently permits, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “One person should not be able to prevent another person from speaking because they hold an opposing view.”

Q8: Regardless of what you think the law currently permits, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “A person should be able to prevent another person from speaking if they believe that person’s speech is hateful.”

Q9: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Speech should not be regulated even when it makes others feel uncomfortable.”

Q10: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? ”Government should be able to take action against news media that publish content that is biased.”

Q11: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Government should be prevented from taking legal action against news media that publish content which is inflammatory.”

Q12: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? ”Government should not be able to take legal action against news media that publish content which is later found to be false.”

Q13: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Each social media company should monitor speech on its platform for the purpose of removing offensive speech and views.”

Q14: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Social media companies should not restrict users based on the content of their posts.”

Q15_1: Should the government restrict the speech of the following groups? – Conservatives

Q15_2: Should the government restrict the speech of the following groups? – Liberals

Q15_3: Should the government restrict the speech of the following groups? – Progressives

Q15_4: Should the government restrict the speech of the following groups? – Socialists

Q15_5: Should the government restrict the speech of the following groups? – Climate Change Deniers

Q15_6: Should the government restrict the speech of the following groups? – Holocaust Deniers

Q15_7: Should the government restrict the speech of the following groups? – Racially Insensitive Persons

Q16: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Government should be allowed to provide state financial aid to parents who send their children to private religious schools.”

Q17: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “It is OK for monuments with religious symbols that honor and remember the sacrifice of soldiers in wartime to be on public grounds.”

Q18: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “K-12 public schools should be able to set aside 15 minutes during the school day for students to practice their religion independently and without school direction.”

Q19: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “A business owner who has a sincere religious objection to providing a certain good or service to an employee or customer, such as contraceptives or abortion, should be allowed to refrain from doing so.”

Q20: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “A student who attends college should be required to pay a mandatory fee to support activities of student groups, even if it includes groups with whom the student sincerely disagrees.”

Q21: Some people argue a factory worker should be required to pay a mandatory fee to support the activities of a union in order to obtain better wages for its members. Others argue that mandatory fees should not be required if the worker is not a member or disagrees with union leadership. What do you think?

Q22: How strongly do you feel that factory workers should pay fees?

Q23: How strongly do you feel that factory workers should not pay fees?

Q24: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Public institutions should revoke invitations to guest speakers when the speakers’ remarks would likely offend some people.”

Q25: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Public institutions should revoke invitations to guest speakers when groups might use the speech as a reason to cause damage to another’s property.”

Q26: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “A person should not lose his or her job because they say something that makes a co-worker feel uncomfortable, even when the comment is legal.”

Q27: Finally, we have some questions about you and your background. What is your sex? – Selected Choice

Q28_1: Check all of the following that describe your race or ethnicity: – Selected Choice American Indian or Alaskan Native

Q28_2: Check all of the following that describe your race or ethnicity: – Selected Choice Asian

Q28_3: Check all of the following that describe your race or ethnicity: – Selected Choice Black or African American

Q28_4: Check all of the following that describe your race or ethnicity: – Selected Choice Hispanic or Latino

Q28_5: Check all of the following that describe your race or ethnicity: – Selected Choice Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

Q28_6: Check all of the following that describe your race or ethnicity: – Selected Choice White

Q28_7: Check all of the following that describe your race or ethnicity: – Selected Choice Other, please tell us:

Q30: Did you graduate from high school in the United States?

Q31_1: : In what U.S. state or territory did you graduate high school? – State

Q34: Apart from special events like weddings and funerals, how often do you attend religious services?

Q35: How many years have you been enrolled at UW-Madison? Is this your…

Q36: A full-time undergraduate student takes 12 or more credits per semester. Are you currently a full-time or part-time student?

Q38: Do any of your majors in college require you to take a course where you learn about civics, or how government works?

Q39: Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or something else? – Selected Choice

Q40: How strong of a Republican do you consider yourself?

Q41: How strong of a Democrat do you consider yourself?

Q42: Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party or to the Democratic Party?

Q43_1: The terms “liberal” and “conservative” may mean different things to different people, depending on the kind of issue one is considering. – In terms of economic issues, would you say you are:

Q43_2: The terms “liberal” and “conservative” may mean different things to different people, depending on the kind of issue one is considering. – In terms of social issues, would you say you are:

Q45: When you are ready to submit your data, please check Submit below. Once you have submitted your answers, you will no longer be able to return to this survey.

Disability Savings Accounts in Wisconsin: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Wisconsin State ABLE Program

Authors: Victoria Casola, Laura Downer, Jacob Hollnagel, and Peter Kolanowski with the La Follette School of Public Affairs

Executive Summary

As requested by the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership, we conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program that allows individuals with disabilities to establish tax-advantaged savings accounts. States decide to implement their own ABLE programs, but Wisconsin has not administered its own ABLE program for state residents. Currently, Wisconsin residents who chose to open an ABLE account must enroll in another state’s program, if the state allows nonresident participants. We recommend that Wisconsin joins the STABLE partnership to benefit Wisconsin residents with disabilities.

This report analyzes and compares the costs and benefits of the following alternatives for Wisconsin to consider to encourage participation in ABLE programs: establishing a Wisconsin ABLE program; joining the STABLE partnership, a multi-state program that pools resources and has a standardized program across the partner states; and launching an advertising campaign to promote enrolling in other ABLE state programs. Monetized costs and benefits include tax losses and administrative costs for Wisconsin and state and federal tax earnings for Wisconsin resident account holders. Non-monetized benefits include the value of independent living, improved health outcomes, increased educational attainment, and increased employment.

Our results and sensitivity analysis predict positive net benefit for each alternative, discounted over a 10-year period. In terms of monetized costs and benefits, the Wisconsin ABLE program has a present value of net benefits (PVNB) of $250,000; the STABLE Partnership alternative has a PVNB of $1,010,000; and the Advertising Only alternative has the largest PVNB of $1,330,000. We estimate that $360.47 in annual individual non-monetized benefits are needed to make the STABLE partnership PVNB larger than Advertising Only.

Although the administrative costs for the state are much lower in the advertising only alternative, the estimated benefits for the individual and the estimated account growth under the STABLE partnership outweigh those higher costs, resulting in the high net social benefits. When factoring in the nonmonetized benefits, the lower administrative burden, and the increase in the rate of participation, we anticipate additional social benefits that would lead us to recommend the STABLE partnership.

Read the full report: La Follette WI ABLE Cost-Benefit Analysis Report

Civics Study White Paper – 12.10.2019

Summary:

In late 2019, the Thompson Center conducted a survey with the University of Wisconsin Survey Center to determine how much undergraduate students at UW-Madison know about American civics.  Overall, students scored reasonably well on the exam, with an average “score” of 86% correct on test questions.

Analysis of the survey found that the largest factor contributing to higher scores is the number of High School civics classes students took. Students coming from states that required them to pass a state civics exam to graduate from High School also performed slightly better than students coming from states that did not require such a test.

In non-test questions students strongly indicated support for a requirement that High School students take civics classes (92% agree). Students also generally supported requiring High School students to take a civics test in order to graduate (61%).

Survey Test Questions

  1. What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
    a. Freedom to petition the government and freedom to disobey traffic laws.
    b. Freedom to worship and freedom to make treaties with other countries.
    c. Freedom of speech and freedom to run for president.
    d. Freedom of speech and freedom of worship.
  2. What is freedom of religion?
    a. You can’t choose the time you practice your religion.
    b. You must choose a religion.
    c. You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.
    d. No one can practice a religion.
  3. Who is in charge of the executive branch? 
    a. The Speaker of the House.
    b. The Prime Minister.
    c. The President.
    d. The Chief Justice.
  4. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
    a. The Articles of Confederation.
    b. The inalienable rights.
    c. The Declaration of Independence.
    d. The Bill of Rights.
  5. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the States.  What is one power of the states? 
    a. Make treaties.
    b. Provide schooling and education.
    c. Create an army.
    d. Coin or Print money.
  6. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
    a. The President.
    b. The Vice President.
    c. The Secretary of Defense.
    d. The Attorney General.
  7. Who is the “Father of Our Country”?
    a. George Washington.
    b. Thomas Jefferson.
    c. Abraham Lincoln.
    d. Patrick Henry.
  8. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
    a. Ten (10).
    b. Four (4).
    c. Two (2).
    d. Six (6).
  9. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
    a. The President.
    b. Checks and Balances.
    c. The People.
    d. Freedom of speech.
  10. We elect a President for how many years?
    a. Eight (8).
    b. Two (2).
    c. Four (4).
    d. Ten (10).
  11. The Idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
    a. We the People.
    b. Congress shall make.
    c. We the British.
    d. We the Colonists.
  12. Who makes federal laws?
    a. Congress.
    b. The states.
    c. The President.
    d. The Supreme Court.
  13. What is the “Rule of Law”?
    a. Everyone but the President must follow the law.
    b. Government does not have to follow the law.
    c. All laws must be the same in every state.
    d. Everyone must follow the law.
  14. What does the Constitution do?
    a. Defines the government.
    b. Sets up the government.
    c. Protects basic rights of Americans.
    d. All of these answers.
  15. Under the Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
    a. To provide police departments.
    b. To issue driver’s licenses.
    c. To make treaties.
    d. To provide schooling.
  16. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
    a. All people of the state in which (s)he was elected.
    b. All people of the state who belong to the Senator’s political party.
    c. The state legislatures.
    d. Only the people of the state who voted for the Senator.
  17. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?
    a. Thirty-Five (35) or older.
    b. Sixteen (16) or older.
    c. Twenty-one (21) or older.
    d. Eighteen (18) or older.
  18. What major event happened September 11, 2001 in the United States? 
    a. The accident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant occurred.
    b. Hurricane Andrew struck the United States.
    c. Terrorists attacked the United States.
    d. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
  19. What does the judicial branch do?
    a. Decides if a law goes against the Constitution.
    b. Reviews laws.
    c. Resolves disputes.
    d. All the above.
  20. What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
    a. Write to a newspaper and call Senators and Representatives.
    b. Give an elected official your opinion on an issue and join a community group.
    c. Vote and join a civic group.
    d. All of these answers.
  21. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Select the response that accurately describes one of them:
    a. Citizens seventeen (17) and older can vote.
    b. Citizens by birth only can vote.
    c. Citizens eighteen (18) and older can vote.
    d. Only citizens with a job can vote.
  22. Who signs bills to become laws?
    a. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
    b. The Vice President.
    c. The Secretary of State.
    d. The President.
  23. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
    a. Four hundred forty-one (441).
    b. Four hundred thirty-five (435).
    c. Two hundred (200).
    d. One hundred (100).
  24. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
    a. Because the state’s Representatives have seniority in the House of Representatives.
    b. Because of the state’s population.
    c. Because of the geographical size of the state.
    d. Because of the state’s location.
  25. What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
    a. Pay taxes.
    b. Obey the law.
    c. Be respectful of others.
    d. Serve on a jury.
  26. What is the economic system in the United States?
    a. Communist economy.
    b. Capitalist economy.
    c. Socialist economy.
    d. None of these answers.
  27. Name one right belonging only to United States citizens.
    a. Freedom of religion.
    b. Run for federal office.
    c. Attend public school.
    d. Freedom of Speech.
  28. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
    a. The House of Representatives and the courts.
    b. The House of Lords and the House of Commons.
    c. The Senate and House of Representatives.
    d. The Senate and the courts.
  29. What is the supreme law of the land?
    a. The Articles of Confederation.
    b. The Constitution.
    c. The Emancipation Proclamation.
    d. The Declaration of Independence.
  30. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years? 
    a. Six (6).
    b. Two (2).
    c. Four (4).
    d. Eight (8).
  31. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
    a. Life and death.
    b. Life and pursuit of happiness.
    c. Liberty and Justice.
    d. Life and the right to own a home.
  32. What is one right or freedom granted by the First Amendment?
    a. Trial by Jury.
    b. To vote.
    c. To bear arms.
    d. Speech.
  33. How many U.S. Senators are there? 
    a. Fifty-two (52).
    b. Four hundred thirty-five (435).
    c. One hundred (100).
    d. Fifty (50).
  34. If the President and Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes the President of the United States?
    a. Speaker of the House.
    b. Secretary of State.
    c. Senate President Pro Tempore.
    d. Secretary of Defense.
  35. How many Justices are on the Supreme Court?
    a. Five (5).
    b. Nine (9).
    c. Ten (10).
    d. Thirteen (13)

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