Executive Summary of Findings:
- Overall, 60% of college students expressed reluctance to discuss at least one controversial topic (i.e., politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, and gender), similar to last year’s numbers.
- Students who reported having low interaction quality with classmates (i.e., not much opportunity to get to know other students) also reported greater reluctance to discuss all five of the core controversial topics. This finding suggests that, in the future, professors may facilitate more critical conversations if they also facilitate students getting to know one another.
- Students’ political party and race/ethnicity seem to play a role in how reluctant they are to discuss a number of controversial topics, with Republican and Independent students and white and Asian students being most reluctant.
- There are a number of feared consequences (e.g., being criticized as offensive) that seem to prevent some students from discussing controversial topics in class. However, when students were asked what they would do if a classmate expressed an opinion with which they strongly disagreed, the overwhelming response was to ask questions to understand the other student’s opinion better.
- Eighty percent of the student sample reported being vaccinated. Unvaccinated students were more reluctant to discuss COVID-19 than vaccinated students.
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