A recent study found that a whopping 80 percent of the population believes “political correctness is a problem in our country.”
The study, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” was conducted by the international research initiative More in Common. Researchers asked 8,000 respondents questions about topics like sexual harassment, white privilege, and immigration, and divided them into seven different categories: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives.
The two conservative categories combined represented 25 percent of the respondents, and the progressive category represented only 8 percent. The researchers designated the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme as the “exhausted majority,” whose members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”
Most of the “exhausted majority” reported a distaste for political correctness — and they’re not the only ones, either. In fact, despite the reputation that millennials get for being too sensitive, 79 percent of respondents under the age of 24 actually reported the same thing. So did 97 percent of devoted conservatives and a full 61 percent of traditional liberals.
This is certainly surprising — and encouraging — news. During my time covering political correctness at National Review, I’ve written countless stories about extreme examples of sensitivity in our culture. My latest piece covered Colorado State University warning its students to avoid “gendered emojis” in order to be “more inclusive” on social media. I’ve reported on skinny eyebrows being declared cultural appropriation, a lawmaker claiming that a sign named after General Joseph Hooker is offensive to women because his name was “Hooker,” “God bless you” being declared an anti-Islamic microaggression, and a professor declaring that small chairs in preschools are sexist, “problematic,” and “disempowering.” I’ve also written about the size of chairs being deemed a “microaggression” against overweight people, a school district deciding to remove the word “chief” from job titles over concerns that it’s a microaggression against indigenous people, and a councilman who was concerned that hosing down poop-covered sidewalks might be racially insensitive.
I could go on for pages and pages, but you get the point: Writing about political correctness sometimes makes me feel as if everyone has gone mad, and I’m very glad to see that this doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, a strong majority of people apparently agrees with me. A strong majority believes that political correctness has gone too far, and probably would agree that we need to be careful to protect our ability to speak freely in this country.
That’s certainly encouraging, but it still doesn’t make me feel entirely better. After all, the small, PC-obsessed mob can sometimes be very powerful. Once it decides that someone or something is racist or sexist, that conclusion can carry a lot of weight. It can ruin careers and lives. It can remove perfectly good, innocuous words from acceptable speech, because even the people who might not see a problem with those words don’t want to risk being accused of racism or sexism for using them. The only answer is to keep fighting, to keep exposing and mocking such overreach when it occurs — and to take solace in the fact that so many people have awoken to its dangers.