- UF, FGCU, and FSU have the highest percentage of students and employees who report feeling “intimidated” to share their views on campus
- The data was compiled from the State University System’s Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity 2022 Survey
- Response rate had no correlation with the results of the survey
- The University of Florida not only scored worst, but also had the highest number of survey results returned, while also ranking third highest in total response rate
- FSU scored third worst, but had the 9th lowest response rate
While it’s no secret that college and university campuses across the country – and right here in Florida – generally skew more liberal among professors and students, Americans have traditionally shrugged it off as a fact of life. But now a rich trove of survey data collected in Florida suggests that thousands of students and employees across all 12 of Florida’s state colleges and universities say their professors and colleagues are so intolerant of alternative views that they feel too intimidated to share their real opinions. The vast majority of those who reported feeling intimidated identified as conservative, and said their school’s prevailing political climate was overwhelmingly liberal.
The rich trove of survey data, collected from more than 18,000 students and employees, provides fascinating insights about the political atmosphere at each of the state’s 12 higher learning institutions. And though media outlets across the state have collectively ignored the data, pollsters and political data experts say that the survey results are a valid source of information that provide a clear and easily understood picture of campus life at Florida’s higher learning institutions.
Notably, the survey response rate – whether high or low – had no clear correlation with the reported results. The University of Florida scored collectively as the most ideologically intolerant school, but also had one of the highest response rates among all the schools. Florida State University scored third most politically oppressive, yet did so with only the 9th highest response rate. Meanwhile, the University of South Florida ranked as one of the most politically tolerant schools even with the third highest response rate.
Using data from the survey, The Capitolist ranked each of the state’s 12 schools based on the results of the most salient questions, posed to both students and employees alike. The results paint an alarming picture of Florida’s collegiate environment where at some schools, political diversity is frowned upon and orthodoxy is achieved through intimidation, while other schools are more encouraging and open-minded about the free expression of ideas.
Here’s a look at how students on each campus responded to the prompt: “I have felt intimidated to share my ideas or political opinions because they were different from those of my professors.”
The worst scoring schools were led by Fort Myers-based Florida Gulf Coast University, where the highest percentage of students reported feeling intimidated to share their views simply because they were different from their professors. FGCU was followed closely by students attending the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville, while the University of Florida, based in Gainesville, rounded out the top three.
Florida A&M University, New College of Florida, and Florida Polytechnic had the least intimidating environments according to students who responded to the survey.
A similar prompt was given to campus employees, which included administrators, professors, staff, and other general employees: “I have felt intimidated to share my ideas or political opinions because they were different from those of my colleagues.” Here’s how those responses break down by campus:
Two of the same three schools showed up again as worst for fostering political diversity. This time, though, the University of Florida lead the pack by a wide margin with a stunning 49.88 percent – nearly one in every two employees – reporting feelings of intimidation about sharing their beliefs.
Joining UF was a surprise showing by New College of Florida, the smallest higher education institution in the state university system, with 46 percent of all employees saying they felt intimidated to share their views. Fortunately, NCF students were among the least likely to feel intimidation.
Rounding out the top three among employees was Florida Gulf Coast University, which also had a high number of students report similar feelings.
To account for the difference in numbers of respondents between students and employees (some schools had significantly higher responses from one group or another), we combined the responses of all students and employees to arrive at a weighted percentage for everyone who attends or works at each campus who also reported feeling some level of intimidation about sharing their political views because they didn’t align with the school’s prevailing liberal ideology.
Based on the survey data from more than 18,000 employees and students, here are all 12 of Florida’s state colleges and universities ranked in order of most to least politically oppressive:
By a wide margin, the University of Florida, based in Gainesville, ranks the worst overall. Roughly two in five – 40% – of the people on UF’s campus don’t feel comfortable enough to share their real views on political matters. While detractors may argue that the survey results are too low to provide a realistic picture of what’s really going on at the school, pollsters and data scientists say that’s not true. At best, they say, the total percentages at each school might skew in one direction or the other, but the sample sizes are large enough (significantly larger than most scientifically accurate political polls) that even if every single student and employee at all 12 schools were surveyed, UF would still almost certainly rank worse than its peers.
Likewise, Florida Gulf Coast University isn’t far behind UF, with nearly the same number of students, professors and staff complaining that the campus environment is politically oppressive and intimidating.
Rounding out the worst three schools is a bit of surprise: Florida State University. While FSU didn’t rank in the worst three in either of the individual surveys, the combined results reveal that FSU’s campus is among the least politically tolerant schools in the state.