Would you punch a Nazi in the nose?

November 8, 2017

Is it okay to pack a punch when you find yourself at a rally of Neo-Nazis or white supremacists? In response to the Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, results of which were released on November 3, most Americans said no.

More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents to the national poll of 2,300 U.S. adults believe it is not morally acceptable to punch a Nazi in the nose. About one-third (32%), however, say that taking decency and integrity into your own hands—literally—is acceptable.

Among strong liberals, a slim majority (51%) say it’s moral to punch Nazis. Only 21% of strong conservatives agree.

Strong liberals’ approval of Nazi-punching is not representative of Democratic ideology as a whole, the Cato survey found. A majority (56%) of Democrats believe it is not morally acceptable to punch a Nazi. Thus, tolerance of violence as a response to offensive speech and ideas is found primarily on the far Left.

The survey found that liberals were more likely to consider upsetting and controversial ideas to be “hateful” rather than simply “offensive.” This may help partially explain why staunch liberals are more comfortable than the average American with using violence against Nazis.

What’s more, approval for punching Nazis also varies with age and race. Millennials are nearly twice as likely (42%) as people over 55 (24%) to say such violence is morally justified.

African Americans (45%) are also more likely than whites (28%) and Latinos (35%) to say punching Nazis is okay. Nevertheless, majorities of each of these groups say physical force is not justified, even against a Nazi.

The survey was designed and conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov. YouGov collected responses online August 15 through August 23, nationally.

Research contact: Emily Ekins (202-789-5200)