Are students comfortable speaking openly about their political opinion?

Political Alignment of MV students (350 students polled)

Alissa Zhao

Political Alignment of MV students (350 students polled)

Joseph Steil, Isabelle Schrab, and Sienna Wood

The First Amendment protects several basic freedoms in the United States, including the freedom of speech. However, just because the law allows for free speech, it does not necessarily mean that individuals always feel as though they can speak freely. As politics have become increasingly divided, many people who politically identify as conservative feel as though they are unable to share their own opinions. Factors such as social backlash and public disapproval have arguably created unwritten rules on what is allowed to be shared.

Many conservative students at Mounds View High School feel that they are unable to express certain opinions because of their political views. “If you’re a Republican, you can’t express your opinions because people are going to treat you poorly and say that you’re wrong,” said Clara Gustafson, 11. “You don’t want people to think of you less because of what your opinions are.” Another conservative student, Zach Hoglund, 12, shared similar concerns about how his political opinions might affect how he is perceived by others. “I have previously faced unfair negative judgment when I say a conservative political opinion, where [peers] immediately assume various things about my intelligence or background,” Hoglund said.

In contrast to conservative students, liberal students at Mounds View did not feel as many restrictions when sharing their opinions. “I feel like I can share my views to a certain extent,” said Ellie Keillor, 12. “There are some people I am a lot more comfortable sharing with than others. However, personally I am not afraid to share with anyone; it’s just the amount of detail I go into with them. I feel as though conservatives are in a similar boat but in today’s Gen Z [Generation Z], it is a bit harder for them to share what they believe with everyone.” Other students also believed that although they may have differing opinions than their peers, everyone should still be welcome to share. “People have their own views, and that’s their opinion,” said Ella Boyles, 11. “I might not agree with them in my head, but I wouldn’t say anything to them.” 

To get a greater understanding of this divide at MVHS, a poll was conducted among 350 students about their political alignment. 176 students identified as liberal, while the other 174 identified as conservative. Both groups were then asked if they felt as though their opinions were restricted because of their political views. While 72.2% of the liberal students claimed their freedom of speech was not restricted, only 19.0% of conservative students felt the same.

While 72.2% of the liberal students claimed their freedom of speech was not restricted, only 19.0% of conservative students felt the same. ”

There is a great opportunity at Mounds View, as well as places all over the world, to accept the controversial topics that can cause people to feel divided. “I believe that it is these conversations that are increasingly uncommon and ever more important in today’s divided political climate,” Hoglund said. Although it may take time, hopefully one day both conservative and liberal students will discuss their political opinions rather than argue. “There is a very slim chance you’re going to change one’s view so don’t try to argue about it,” Keillor said. “Rather, have a real discussion and both sides [conservative and liberal] need to keep an open mind.”