356 Controversial Speech and Essay Topic Ideas

controversial speech topicsControversial topics work well for speeches and essays, because they typically evoke strong opinions on both sides. When you choose to speak or write about a controversial issue, you must learn to play devil’s advocate and become familiar with the arguments of the other side. This helps develop your critical thinking skills and helps you better defend your position on an issue. This skill can come in handy in many settings; school debates, political discussions, public policy forums, etc. When you have the ability to think critically and understand all points of view, you have a much better chance of engaging your audience.


On this page, you will find hundreds of controversial speech topics and controversial essay topics. Our lists cover a wide range of subjects, and we are continually adding new topics for our readers to choose from. If you are not able to think of a controversial topic you would want to speak or write about, these should help get you started. For more ideas, you may also want to check our list of argumentative speech topics, persuasive speech topics, and policy speech topics.

Choosing the Best Topic

If you want your presentation to be the best it can be, it is important to select the right topic. Toward that end, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Purpose: Will you use your controversial topic to inform your audience, or will this be more of a persuasive or argumentative essay or speech? Perhaps it will be a mixture of all three, with some shock value thrown in for good measure. Decide your purpose, and what you want your audience to take away from your presentation, ahead of time.
  • Audience: Think about who your audience is and how you can shape the topic to connect with them. For example, is your audience made up of younger or older people? Are they predominantly male or female? What are their social and cultural backgrounds? Will the controversial topic you are considering be interesting to your audience?
  • Interests: It is best to choose a topic you know something about, and one that you are passionate about as well. This gives you a head start during your research phase, and it helps ensure your presentation will be well-received. On the other hand, if you pick a controversial topic you have very little interest in, you will find it very difficult to complete the assignment.
  • Credibility: If you have extensive knowledge of a particular topic, it greatly increases your credibility when presenting it to your audience. Think about how long you have been interested in the topic, how much you know about it, and how much information is available to ensure your research will be thorough. It is also helpful if you have some personal and/or professional experience with the subject.

Controversy is all around us. If you can’t find a controversial topic on our list that fits your passion, there are plenty of other resources available. For example, you can find fresh and up-to-date topics in your social media feeds, from controversial articles in the newspaper, among thread starters (issues that draw major interest in various online forums), and from helpful sites such as CQ Researcher and procon.org. Also feel free to browse our trending topics page for more related topics.

List of Controversial Speech Topics

  1. The music industry is mafia-like controlled and therefore the CD prices are high.
  2. Religious fundamentalism is a growing threat to our society.
  3. Health insurance companies should be refused to use genetic information of clients.
  4. High school grades are inflating diplomas / certificates.
  5. Students who download copyrighted music education should not be prosecuted.
  6. Stop farm subsidies.
  7. HIV tests should be available in drug stores like pregnancy tests.
  8. Hunting should be restricted to some environmental areas.
  9. Nuclear power is a viable energy source for the future.
  10. Higher education should only be accessible to good students.
  11. Doctors should be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana for severely ill patients.
  12. It is crucial for women to develop a career before marriage and get kids.
  13. The importance of the school prayer at early childhood education institutions.
  14. Agnosticism can be simply defined as skepticism regarding theology.
  15. International satellite news broadcasting poses a threat to indigenous cultures.
  16. There is still a glass ceiling for women.
  17. Governments ought to stop child labor.
  18. The minimum wage only should be at a level in which a person can survive.
  19. The government should pay for all healthcare services.
  20. Stuttering causes self-acceptance and self-esteem problems.
  21. Parents are to blame for unruly children in public restaurants and bars.
  22. Pharmacists should be permitted to refuse to sell the morning after pill to underage girls after wrong dating.
  23. We need medical experiments on humans.
  24. Wild life safaris are orchestrated adventures for the happy rich.
  25. Small universities are more human than big universities. Big universities operate like factories.
  26. Home schooling is an effective education program for rural areas and long distance regions.
  27. Working in night-shifts costs you at least ten years of your life.
  28. Students should spend the whole day on studying and not on outdoor team sports activities.
  29. Hummer buyers are sad people who over-compensate things.
  30. People who have committed serious crimes should not help make laws for others.
  31. Sex offenders should be castrated.
  32. Workplace dating is wrong.
  33. Live with your lover before getting married.

List of Controversial Essay Topics

Politics and economics, law and order

  1. Slacktivism: actions performed online in support of political or social causes
  2. Shall-issue laws for concealed carry permits make states safer
  3. Should capital punishment be outlawed?
  4. Electronic voting: security and privacy concerns
  5. We should have gun control that outlaws firearms with high-capacity magazines.
  6. Why women have less wealth and how to fix it
  7. The benefits of First Nations casinos
  8. The impact of mandatory minimum penalties in federal sentencing
  9. Is multiculturalism good for our society?
  10. Abortion: Pro-life vs. pro-choice
  11. LGBTQ Rights
  12. Gun Control vs. Second Amendment rights
  13. Legalizing euthanasia for patients with terminal illnesses
  14. Using torture as an interrogation tactic
  15. Racial Profiling: Is there a place for it?
  16. Corruption in Journalism
  17. Refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in some American schools
  18. Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Live Matter
  19. Should the president govern the nation by a set code of ethics?
  20. Abolishing the Electoral College
  21. Financial protection for farmers against things like draught, and pests
  22. U.S. intervention in Iraq
  23. America should keeps its nose out of other nation’s problems
  24. National Deficit
  25. Will world peace ever be obtainable
  26. Political campaign finance reforms
  27. Racism: Playing the victim
  28. Nuclear arms control
  29. Government bailouts of banks and financial institutions
  30. Labor Unions
  31. Gay Marriage
  32. Salaries of professional athletes vs. salaries of military men and women
  33. The overuse of mudslinging in political races
  34. War on homelessness
  35. Low morality standards in America
  36. Prisoner’s rights
  37. Hate crimes
  38. College available to all
  39. Removing children from abusive homes to be put in “the system”
  40. Double standard between men and women in the working community
  41. Student loan debt
  42. Common Core: Is it helping or hurting?
  43. Ethics in medicine
  44. Improve the standards in nursing homes
  45. Capital Punishment and Death Penalty: Barbaric or necessary?
  46. TSA overregulation in airports
  47. Lowering the legal drinking age
  48. Driving age for teens
  49. Banning animal testing and experimentation
  50. Legalizing same-sex marriages
  51. High taxation rates
  52. Restrictions on 1st Amendment Rights (Freedom of Speech)
  53. Censorship: We have a right to know
  54. Illegal Immigration: Restrictions and laws
  55. Immigration: Doing it the legal way is hard
  56. Insanity plea: Just an excuse?
  57. Zero tolerance gun laws in schools
  58. Harsher punishment for those found guilty of sexual harassment
  59. Tobacco regulation
  60. Corruption on the police force
  61. Sex offender notification
  62. Tougher laws against discrimination
  63. Stronger child pornography laws
  64. Environment in jails contributing to future crimes committed
  65. Registering to be an organ donor
  66. All athletes receive mandatory drug tests
  67. Seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws
  68. Abolishment of the jury
  69. Adoptive parents must legally allow biological parents to remain in contact with children
  70. Holding charities accountable for donation allotment
  71. Stricter penalties for those found guilty of animal cruelty
  72. Abandoning the requirement for a warrant for search ad seizures
  73. Mandatory spaying and neutering of pets
  74. Using spanking for discipline
  75. Open adoption records
  76. Abusing the right to sue
  77. Detention facility tactics used
  78. Birth control regulation and availability
  79. Public access to personal health records
  80. Protection against medical malpractice
  81. The minimum wage and its impact on employment

For Teens

  1. How teens are impacted by the hookup culture
  2. How to stop school bullying and cyberbullying
  3. Pornography should be banned from public libraries so teens don’t have access
  4. What causes teen anxiety, depression, and mental illness
  5. Teen suicide: who is at fault?
  6. Teens should not be allowed to gamble
  7. What should we do to keep drugs out of the hands of teens?
  8. How do we deal with the problem of teens and eating disorders?
  9. At what age should teens be allowed to vote?
  10. At what age should parents let their teens start dating?

Current Events

  1. Is Donald Trump good or bad for America and the world?
  2. The U.S. should build a border wall to stop illegal immigration
  3. The federal minimum wage should be raised to provide everyone a livable wage
  4. Negative political campaigning should be banned
  5. The U.S. should go back on the gold standard
  6. Political correctness suppresses free speech
  7. Why the U.S. needs to implement tax reform
  8. Gay marriage should be allowed for same-sex couples
  9. The civil liberty of every individual should be protected
  10. The federal government is far too large and intrusive
  11. Supreme Court justices should not receive lifetime appointments

Foreign Policy

  1. What is necessary to win the war on terrorism?
  2. The U.S. should no longer play world policeman
  3. What is the real cost of war?
  4. Why the U.S.-Iraq war was wrong
  5. Diplomacy or force: how should we deal with North Korea?
  6. How do we bring lasting peace to the Middle East?
  7. Should the West continue to accept refugees from Syria?
  8. Why it is important to keep Iran from going nuclear
  9. Why the U.S. should increase, or decrease foreign aid


  1. Why stupid cat videos are ruining the internet
  2. Why smoking is actually good for you
  3. The benefits of texting while driving
  4. Why Walmart needs to implement a dress code
  5. Reasons to appreciate smog
  6. Reasons to give teenagers credit cards
  7. Why the Kardashians are more influential than the president
  8. Why cats are better companions than dogs
  9. Why Amazon must be stopped
  10. Is golf really a sport?


  1. Botched executions and America’s death penalty
  2. History of legalized abortion
  3. The legalization of marijuana
  4. The existence of ghosts
  5. A woman’s place being in the home
  6. Creation vs. Evolution
  7. Midwifery is a lost art
  8. Genocide
  9. Causes and effects of World War I
  10. Causes and effects of World War II
  11. Feminism and women’s rights


  1. The benefits of medical marijuana
  2. Do all citizens have a right to affordable health care?
  3. The ethics of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide
  4. Does milk benefit the body, or not?
  5. Why the obesity epidemic should be seen as a disease
  6. Ethics around eugenics, the study of human genetics
  7. Why prescription drug advertising should be limited
  8. Are animal testing and animal experimentation ethical?
  9. Energy conservation should become a lifestyle
  10. Every person’s life should be protected


  1. The drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18
  2. The U.S. should not continue its practice of drone strikes abroad
  3. Convicted felons should not be allowed to vote
  4. Should the Electoral College be replaced by the popular vote?
  5. Should Social Security be privatized?
  6. Should the words “under God” be kept in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance?
  7. The Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision should be overturned
  8. The government should put an end to income inequality
  9. Voter ID laws discriminate against minorities
  10. Politicians should be banned from becoming lobbyists


  1. Why the world would be better off without organized religion
  2. Religious opposition to divorce
  3. Unmarried couples living together
  4. Is the Bible historically correct?
  5. Is the Holy Spirit still present in Christian churches?
  6. Is teaching religion to students in public schools beneficial for society?
  7. Is Islam really a religion of peace?
  8. Religious exemptions for mandatory school vaccinations
  9. Should churches be allowed to keep their tax-exempt status?

Science, biology, and health

  1. The negative health effects of consuming Genetically Engineered products
  2. Smokers with lung cancer collecting damages
  3. PETA and the war on animal cruelty, specifically as grounds for going vegan
  4. Meat industry using antibiotics
  5. Vaccinations: Mandatory for public school entrance
  6. Vaccinations: Do they work or are they hurting more than helping?
  7. The existence of aliens
  8. Drug testing for welfare applicants
  9. Biological warfare
  10. UFOs
  11. Men sharing birth control burden
  12. Fetal abuse during pregnancy
  13. America’s war on obesity
  14. Stem cell research
  15. The paranormal world
  16. Care for the mentally disabled
  17. Eliminating “value size” options at fast food restaurants
  18. Renewable and Alternative Energy


  1. Polygamy legalization
  2. The impact of pornography on a marriage
  3. Sex on TV
  4. Gay couples raising children
  5. Homosexuals in the military
  6. Homosexuality and bisexuality
  7. The presence of adult content in shows and movies made for children
  8. Sexual orientation
  9. Which locker rooms should LGBTQ athletes use?
  10. Is legalized prostitution good for society?
  11. Transgender individuals and which bathroom should they use
  12. Should transgender individuals be allowed in the military?
  13. Is sexual orientation determined at birth?


  1. Do violent video games cause video game addictions?
  2. Should advertising alcohol and cigarettes be banned?
  3. Why rock and roll is the best kind of music
  4. Tattoos and other body art
  5. Gambling


  1. How the use of pesticides harms our environment
  2. Why recycling programs should be mandatory
  3. Why we need to conserve our limited water resources
  4. Why we should mandate the use of alternative energy to stop global warming and global climate change
  5. Global Warming: Is it real or is it propaganda?
  6. Global climate change
  7. Recycling
  8. Going Green
  9. Putting restrictions on weekly garbage output


  1. Meaning of life
  2. Truth and falsehood
  3. The Scientific method as an ongling process


  1. Are smartphones harmful?
  2. Electronic surveillance and the right to privacy
  3. Social networking and online privacy
  4. Freedom of speech on the internet
  5. Implanted GPS systems threatening privacy
  6. Risks of Wi-Fi and cellular signals to our health
  7. Fuel efficiency of vehicles
  8. Developing alternate forms of energy
  9. Cloning
  10. Drone warfare
  11. Getting and online education
  12. Overemphasis on computers in schools
  13. Plastic surgery
  14. Public surveillance technology


  1. Sexual education and at what age is it appropriate?
  2. Are school uniforms necessary?
  3. Technology in schools: tablets vs. textbooks
  4. Should religious holidays be celebrated in public schools (e.g., Christmas, Easter)
  5. Should school districts switch to year-round schooling?
  6. Should bilingual education be mandatory?
  7. Should evolution or creationism be taught in public high schools?
  8. Should the federal government implement a school voucher program?
  9. Law-related education should be reformed
  10. Why Common Core should be repealed
  11. Homeschooling and its effect on children
  12. The Arts: should students go for something more practical
  13. Schooling year-round
  14. Schools not teaching enough “life skills” classes
  15. Out-of-school suspension in schools
  16. Value of pre-schools
  17. Homework for students
  18. Surveillance in schools
  19. Protection and individual nourishment of children in “the system”
  20. Boycotting products made by killing or abusing animals


  1. Breastfeeding in public
  2. Are guns dangerous or are the people using them dangerous?
  3. The morality of hunting
  4. Mass school shootings and the media

List of Controversial Debate Topics

Political and Economics, Law and Order

  1. Voting age should be lower/higher
  2. Age of consent should be lower/higher
  3. Should children, even with parental consent, be allowed to marry
  4. The appeal and consequences of concealed carry of firearms
  5. Free press vs. fair trial
  6. Legalized gambling
  7. The right to be LGBTQ parents
  8. Freedom of speech and racism
  9. Insanity defense
  10. Prohibition vs. drug legalization
  11. Medical decision-making and minors
  12. Pros and cons of raising minimum wage
  13. Partial-birth abortion
  14. Outdoor smoking bans and claims to public space
  15. Should parents be allowed to spank their children?
  16. Do alcohol and tobacco advertising bans work?
  17. Pros and cons of the Unemployment Insurance benefit.
  18. Chemical and biological warfare
  19. Paying for a surrogate


  1. Should there be slavery reparations


  1. Creation vs. evolution
  2. Secularism and freedom of religion
  3. Common-law couples

Science, Biology, and Health

  1. Alcohol vs. marijuana
  2. Should eugenics be used to enhance humans
  3. Assisted suicide for terminally ill patients
  4. The controversy over genetically modified food
  5. Healthcare rationing
  6. Natural food vs. science-based food (ex. sugar or sweetener)
  7. Implanted GPS


  1. Condoms should or should not be offered in high schools
  2. Polygamy


  1. Sex in advertisements
  2. The benefits of make-believe violence


  1. Nuclear energy, yea or nay


  1. Abstinence-based sex education
  2. Drug testing in schools
  3. Physical punishment in schools

For Teens

  1. Should military recruiting be allowed on campus
  2. Pros and cons of school uniforms
  3. Should minors have access to Plan B emergency contraception


  1. Beauty contests are harmful
  2. Pornography and censorship
  3. Prayer in public schools
  4. The ethics of transracial adoption

List of Controversial Research Topics

Political and Economics, Law and Order

  1. The politics of climate change
  2. Corporal punishment
  3. Should trials be in the media
  4. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
  5. Interest groups in the electoral process
  6. Determinants and effect of corporate lobbying


  1. The history of the LGBTQ community
  2. The impact of No Child Left Behind

Science, Biology, and Health

  1. Is alien abduction real
  2. Should animal cloning be allowed
  3. Artificial intelligence
  4. Ethical issues in human cloning
  5. The future of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia
  6. Genetic engineering
  7. Genetic screening and testing
  8. Understanding the U.S. healthcare system
  9. Hormone Replacement Therapy and ovarian cancer
  10. Vaccination risks
  11. Intelligent Design
  12. Next steps in the military uses of space
  13. Electromagnetic radiation


  1. Exploration of the gender spectrum


  1. Advertising’s effect on children
  2. Regulating the changing media


  1. Gambling online: the social and cultural significance
  2. Hate speech on the internet
  3. Internet content filtering: when is it okay
  4. Internet addiction and its effect

For Teens

  1. Teen unemployment
  2. Fair minimum wage


  1. UFOs

“Controversy is Part of the nature of Art and Creativity” ( Yoko Ono)

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“You have to treat them like sh**” ( Donald Trump)

” Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors” ( John Kennedy)

“If you’ve got a big mouth and you’re controversial, you’re going to get attention” ( Simon Cowell)

Your controversial speech topics will hit a few nerves. When you hit those nerves, you know you’re talking about something worthy of an argument.

The best thing you can do in selecting your topic is to choose something that makes your blood boil, something that you feel strongly for or against, something you have so much passion for that others can see it even when words don’t escape your mouth.

So, find what makes you tick, stand firm in your argument, and get people’s emotions involved. That’s what true persuasion is all about.

Cite this article as: dev, "356 Controversial Speech and Essay Topic Ideas," in My Speech Class, December 19, 2016, https://www.myspeechclass.com/controversial-speech-topics.html.