Year of Graduation


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Open Access Thesis

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First Advisor

Daniel Stone


Do we understand how often people self-censor? This paper examines self-censorship as a strategic choice based on beliefs about how others will interpret an opinion. Evidence to support theories of self-censorship is limited. This study compares the public and private beliefs of undergraduates students using public and private surveys. The hypotheses to be evaluated are (a) students will self-censor conservative beliefs; (b) students will underestimate the proportion of classmates who hold conservative beliefs and overestimate the proportion of classmates who hold liberal beliefs; (c) self-censorship within classes will vary by academic discipline; and (d) self-censorship will vary depending on which perspective (conservative or liberal) appears first in the survey questions. While evidence varies, there is statistically significant evidence that students self-censor conservative beliefs; “virtue signal” liberal beliefs they do not privately hold; and overestimate the proportion of students who hold private partisan beliefs. Further, changing the order of responses in questions affects self-censorship patterns in the public survey.

Available for download on Friday, May 14, 2027