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Keywords:

  • Free speech;
  • Political tolerance;
  • Political ideology;
  • Implicit Association Test

Although freedom of speech is a Constitutionally protected and widely endorsed value, political tolerance research finds that people are less willing to protect speech they dislike than speech they like (Gibson, 2006). Research also suggests liberal-conservative differences in political tolerance (Davis & Silver, 2004). We measured U.S. citizens' political tolerance for speech acts, while manipulating the speaker's ethnicity and the speech's ideological content. Speech criticizing Americans was protected more strongly than was speech criticizing Arabs, especially among more politically liberal respondents. Liberals also reported greater free-speech support. Respondents expressed greater political tolerance for a speaker when he was an exemplar of the criticized group, but showed equal political tolerance for speakers whose group membership (as a White or Black American) was irrelevant to the speech. Finally, implicit political identity showed convergent validity with explicit political identity in predicting speech tolerance, and implicit racial and ethnic preferences showed variable prediction of speech tolerance across the two studies.