What Do People Really Think about Book Bans?

Most people don't support book bans, but there are noticeable differences in opinion based on political affiliation and the book topic.

Recent data show what the American public has to say about banning books.

Calls for banning books have increased in recent years, with libraries and schools across the country facing challenges from people demanding materials be removed from their shelves. It’s become a hot-button issue that has politicians arguing over the appropriateness of books on specific subjects.

Many of the proposed bans have focused on books that deal with race, gender, and sexuality. With all the chaos and furor over this controversial topic, it can be easy to think book bans have a lot of support among the general public. But recent data suggest otherwise.

Does the Public Support Book Bans?

There have been numerous polls taken in recent years on the subject of book bans and censorship. According to the EveryLibrary Institute’s survey on Voter Perceptions of Book Banning, half of all American voters surveyed said they believe there is “absolutely no time when a book should be banned.”

About the same number of voters expressed concern about the legislation being created to regulate access to books, and 75 percent of voters said book bans would be one of the issues they consider when voting for legislators. The vast majority of voters, 91 percent, said they either strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement, “If you don’t like a book at a library, don’t check it out. Other people shouldn’t be able to control what I or my family can read.”


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Other surveys have found similar results. A new American Family Survey showed that 65 percent of people think it’s important for public school libraries to include books with a variety of different perspectives on controversial issues.

Jeremy C. Pope, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University and coinvestigator for the survey, summed up the survey’s results by saying, “The public really doesn’t like book banning.” A majority of people have also expressed opposition to book banning in polls from the American Library Association, the Tennessee Democracy ForumNavigator Research, and CBS.

Overwhelmingly, these polls show that the majority of the American public does not support banning books. However, there are still those who do support bans. Opinions on banning books tend to vary based on several factors, including the political affiliation of those being polled and the subject matter of the books in question.

Political Affiliation, Race, and LGBTQ Issues

Identifying as a Democrat or Republican showed the greatest difference in opinion on book bans. In EveryLibrary’s survey, 95 percent of Democrats opposed book bans, but only 53 percent of Republicans felt the same way. While that still means most Republicans were against banning books, nearly half did support banning books to some degree.

This discrepancy seems to largely come down to the subject matter of the books being banned. Two of the biggest topics that have inspired book bans are race and LGBTQ issues. However, one of these topics causes a much larger difference in opinion than the other.

In a CBS News poll, when it comes to whether books should be banned in schools for discussing race or depicting slavery, over 80 percent of both Democrats and Republicans said that books on those topics should never be banned.

A Pew Research Center study on race and LGBTQ issues in K–12 schools found similar sentiments when asking people if parents should be able to opt their children out of learning certain topics. Most people thought opting out shouldn’t be an option when it comes to learning about racial issues, with only 34 percent saying that parents should have the option to opt out.


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Republicans, though, were more in favor of having the option to opt out, with 55 percent backing the option. But only 16 percent of Democrats were in favor of it. There is clearly significant support from the American public for books and curricula on topics of racial issues to be kept in schools and libraries.

Books about the LGBTQ community, however, appear to have much less support. The same CBS poll that showed most Democrats and Republicans were against banning books about race found that only 71 percent of Democrats were against banning books with LGBTQ characters, while 53 percent of Republicans were actually in favor of banning LGBTQ books. Those who identified as Independents fell between the two, with 62 percent against bans on LGBTQ books and 38 percent in favor.

This increase in the approval of banning content about LGBTQ issues is also reflected in the Pew Research Center’s study. Whereas only 34 percent of people supported parents opting their children out of learning about racial issues, 54 percent believed that parents should be able to opt their children out of learning about LGBTQ issues.

The gap between different political affiliations showed an even greater support for opting out among Republicans, with 79 percent in favor. Most Democrats were against the option to opt out, with only 32 percent in favor, but that percentage was twice as high as those who felt the same about racial issues.


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The Public’s Attitude Toward Libraries and Librarians

Libraries and librarians often become the target of those who support banning certain books. However, just as most Americans are against banning books, they are also highly in favor of libraries. EveryLibrary’s survey found that at least two-thirds of people had favorable feelings about their public libraries and librarians. A slightly smaller majority felt the same for their schools and school librarians, at 53 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

The American Library Association also found strong support for libraries and librarians. Nine in ten voters and parents had a favorable opinion of librarians, both those working in public and school libraries. A large majority of voters (75 percent) and parents (80 percent) also felt confident that local libraries make good decisions about what books to include in their collections.

Despite the recent prominence of book bans in the news, it seems that the majority of the American people do not support this censorship, and they trust that libraries are doing a good job when it comes to selecting the right books for their communities.



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