This is an interesting look into how people self-censor.

Sean Stevens writes at the FIRE blog:

Spirals of silence: Expressing a minority political view on some campuses is difficult

Spiral of Silence Theory

The theory about a spiral of silence for minority opinions and viewpoints was first proposed in 1974 by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. This theory suggests that people possess a “quasi-statistical sense” that allows them to conclude whether their opinion on a given issue is in the majority or minority. Because people are social beings who are motivated to avoid ridicule, isolation, and ostracism from individuals in their immediate community, and because they fear reprisal or vengeance for running afoul of others, deviant opinions tend to be expressed with increasingly less frequency.

In other words, minority opinions experience a spiral of silence and ultimately only a few hardcore true believers are left openly expressing the deviant viewpoint. This can distort perceptions of how widely the prevailing opinion is held and how many people hold a deviant viewpoint. This can make it appear that the opinion of the majority of people is overwhelmingly popular and that there are only a few hard-core true believers who hold deviant views. Although spiral of silence theory is somewhat difficult to study empirically in the laboratory or in naturalistic settings, multiple meta-analyses support the veracity of a spiral of silence effect, particularly for political opinions.

A majority viewpoint on campus

A long-running criticism of colleges and universities is that they are overwhelmingly politically liberal bastions hostile to conservative ideas and viewpoints. This criticism is usually directed at faculty who are overwhelmingly liberal or left-leaning, although the political leanings of campus administrators have also been highlighted. Nevertheless, there remains considerable variability between the faculty on different campuses and there are still some campuses where politically conservative faculty may actually constitute a majority, such as Brigham Young University.

 

 
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