In a series of impassioned remarks at Mount Rushmore on the 4th July, President Donald Trump decried the phenomenon of “cancel culture” as a weapon of “new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.” The term “cancel culture” broadly refers to the pattern of collectively rejecting an individual and all of their work on the basis of them having expressed an opinion that is considered to be politically incorrect; according to critics of cancel culture, it has become increasingly prominent. Within days of Trump’s remarks on the 4th of July, a group of more than 150 renowned authors penned an open letter, condemning the erosion of tolerance and free debate they associate with “cancel culture.”
Two months on, our latest US-wide poll has found that a majority (57%) have still not heard of the term “cancel culture.”
While the issue has come into focus through Trump’s remarks, it is doubtful that “cancel culture” will feature prominently as an issue in the upcoming election campaign, which is likely to be dominated by debates around coronavirus, the economy, healthcare, and China.
Men were more likely (47%) to have heard of the concept than women (39%). Younger respondents aged 18-to-24-years old were significantly more likely (58%) to be aware of the expression compared to those over the age of 65 (39%). Those likely to vote for Joe Biden in November (48%) were five per cent more likely to have heard of the phrase than those likely to vote for Trump (43%).
A majority (55%) of those who had heard about cancel culture believe it poses a “real and worrying” threat, compared to 31% who think the threat from cancel culture is “made-up and exaggerated”.
Within the population of those who have heard of ‘cancel culture,’ men (59%) were more likely to view “cancel culture” negatively than women (51%), as were older respondents: 50% of 18-to-24-year olds regard the phenomenon as “real and worrying”, compared to 62% of those aged over 65. A clear partisan dimension was also evident in responses to this question: 78% of likely Trump voters viewed “cancel culture” negatively, compared to just 38% of likely Biden voters.
Overall, however, only a fifth of the overall sample have heard of “cancel culture” and consider it a real and worrying threat. Ultimately, the debate around “cancel culture” remains a relatively muted one in the context of greater issues at stake in November’s Presidential Election. Yet, it does remain indicative of the deep cultural divide that currently exists in the United States.