From streaming services removing older episodes of “The Office” to scholars and teachers losing their jobs and suffering serious professional consequences, cancel culture is running rampant in America today. However, new data from the canonical American National Election Studies (ANES) reveals that significant numbers of Americans believe that cancel culture has gone too far. Self-censoring and easy offense are on the rise. And contrary to popular belief, younger Americans are just as likely as their older counterparts to view cancel culture as a net negative. Americans’ opinions of cancel culture and hypersensitivity fall along traditional ideological, educational, and racial lines, suggesting that this movement is anything but something exclusively spawned by younger Americans.
Specifically, the latest round of ANES data shows that non-trivially large numbers of Americans across all generational cohorts report censoring their speech at similar frequencies. Forty-five percent of Gen Zers (Americans ages 18 to 24) as well as 45 percent of Millennials (ages 25 to 40) say that they self-censor themselves at least occasionally. Forty-one percent of their Gen X parents (ages 41 to 57) report doing this, and 40 percent of their Boomer grandparents (ages 57 to 75) say the same. Ironically, those in the Silent Generation – Americans between ages 76 and 93 – are far less likely to report silencing themselves, with only 29 percent reporting doing so. Even if the eldest cohort is more open, the fact remains that almost 4 in 10 Americans readily concede that they limit and watch what they say on a fairly regular basis and think this is not healthy behavior in a democratic polity.