Is violence an appropriate response to hate speech? The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolernace Survey finds most Americans say no. More than two-thirds (68%) of Americans say it is not morally acceptable to punch a Nazi in the face. About a third (32%), however, say it is morally acceptable.
Strong liberals stand out with a slim majority (51%) who say it’s moral to punch Nazis. Only 21% of strong conservatives agree.
Strong liberals’ approval of Nazi-punching is not representative of Democrats as a whole. A majority (56%) of Democrats believe it is not morally acceptable to punch a Nazi. Thus, tolerance of violence as a response to offensive speech and ideas is found primarily on the far Left.
The survey found liberals were more likely to consider upsetting and controversial ideas “hateful” rather than simply “offensive.” This may help partially explain why staunch liberals are more comfortable than the average American with using violence against Nazis.
Approval for punching Nazis also varies with age and race. Millennials (42%) are nearly twice as likely as people over 55 (24%) to say such violence is morally justified. African Americans (45%) are also more likely than whites (28%) and Latinos (35%) to say punching Nazis is morally acceptable. Nevertheless, majorities of each of these groups say physical force is not justified, even against a Nazi.
The Cato Institute 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey was designed and conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov. YouGov collected responses online August 15-23, 2017 from a national sample of 2,300 Americans 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.00 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.
 Data on punching Nazis in this section come from a Cato Institute/YouGov survey conducted August 21 to 22, 2017 (N=1,141). Question wording: “Is it morally acceptable or unacceptable to punch a Nazi?” See Survey Methodology for further details.