Gen Z Increasingly Supports Measures That Restrict Freedom

Photo by Scott Webb / Unsplash

Written by Joanna Button

New poll: Findings from a recent Cato Institute poll suggest many young Americans value safety over freedom and the right to privacy. Poll respondents were asked whether they would “favor or oppose the government installing surveillance cameras in every household to reduce domestic violence, abuse, and other illegal activity.” While 75 percent said they would oppose it, 14 percent said they favored it. The remaining 10 percent didn’t have an opinion on the matter. Younger respondents were much more likely to support surveillance.

Demographic divides: Nearly 30 percent of those ages 18 to 29 said they would favor government surveillance in private homes, compared to 5 percent of those older than 65. There was also a significant racial divide: A quarter of Hispanic and a third of black respondents would favor it, compared to 9 percent and 11 percent of white and Asian respondents, respectively.

Generational divide: Gen Z’s larger tendency to support government surveillance over a right to privacy aligns with its views on free speech. A majority of U.S. teens say people feeling welcome and safe online is more important than being able to speak freely. Two-thirds of college students loosely define hate speech as “anything that one particular person believes is harmful, racist, or bigoted,” and around half believe hate speech should be censored.

Big picture: Many young people are eager to entrust the government with the responsibility of solving more issues. This could signal a growing lack of awareness of (or even indifference to) the dangers of government overreach.