Free Speech and Tolerance

My dissertation comprises three papers related to the current state of free speech and tolerance in the United States.

  1. Extreme Speakers: The first paper is an experimental survey of U.S. adults which investigates differences in tolerance of extreme right and extreme left speakers. I find that, contrary to previous literature, Democrats and liberals are not necessarily more tolerant than Republicans and conservatives when it comes to extreme right speakers. Previously, liberals were more tolerant of extreme right individuals exercising their civil liberties, but this change can be partially understood through the lens of leftist concerns about harm from extreme speech.

  2. Recent Changes in Tolerance?: The second paper expands on the first by looking at changes in political tolerance over the last 20 years, using data from the General Social Survey (GSS) as well as online surveys. Questions on political tolerance have been asked in the United States since the 1950’s during the height of the Red Scare, but the last evaluation of the data trends only went through 1998. This paper answers two important questions: (1) have Americans become more or less tolerant over the past 20 years, and (2) how do the GSS measures of tolerance compare to actual public understandings of tolerance (measured in open-ended survey questions).

  3. An Empirical Test of The Chilling Effect: The third paper poses the question: what happens if we restrict hate speech? Compared to other liberal democracies, the U.S. is unique in not having a provision against hate speech. Indeed, France and Germany have had these provisions for many years, dating back to a legacy of Nazism, and now all EU member countries have comparable policies. However, many legal scholars and judges have argued against restricting speech based on its offensive content for fear of causing a “chilling effect,” whereby people are unsure what constitutes hate speech and thus are too afraid to express themselves on contentious topics that are worthy of civil discourse, like gender, race, or immigration. My third paper uses the unique payment structure of Amazon Mechanical Turk to test the chilling effect of hate speech codes on controversial topic expression using a survey experiment.

Immigration and Assimilation 

Assimilation's Flavor

Can we measure assimilation of ethnic groups into the U.S. mainstream via how ethnic food is talked about? In this project, with co-authors Tomás Jiménez and Katharina Roeseler, we use content analysis of Yelp! reviews of Mexican restaurants in the largest U.S. metropolitan areas and ACS data to examine how the absence of ethnic markers in reviews predicts a more integrated Mexican population. 

Public Opinion and Human Rights  

Divergence (and Diffusion) in Support for Same-Sex Marriage, 2006-2014

Support for same-sex marriage rose at an unmatched rate compared to any other social issue of the 20th and 21st centuries - why? This paper uses longitudinal panel data from the GSS to identify what kinds of people changed during 2006 to 2014 from opposing to supporting same-sex marriage. It also examines within-individual changes, like getting married or having a child, and their relationship to support for same-sex marriage.

Empirical Evidence or Human Rights? The Role of Science in the Courtroom and Civil Society

How is science used in court cases that, in part, are adjudicating human rights? Examining the entire court dockets from two cases of contested marriage, Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges, I examine the use of scientific evidence by the plaintiffs, defendants, and civil society organizations that filed amicus briefs for one side or the other.