Review of Recent Book Ban Polls and Voter Surveys
The EveryLibrary Institute is collecting and analyzing polling and surveys about book bans, anti-access legislation, and the perception of libraries/librarians to help advocates quickly find and interpret results. We have compiled six high-quality voter-facing polls from 2022 conducted by issue advocacy groups, new media, and research institutions for your review.
Each of the surveys shares results from a robust national or state-wide voter sample and posts their methodology. We have also aggregated two book ban questions from the University of Texas Tyler/ Morning News monthly snapshot poll for comparison over time.
The positive news for librarians and proponents of free speech is that in poll after poll, American voters oppose book bans and censorship in our schools and public libraries. These issues are important to voters, especially those who appear to want to make their own choices about what they and their children read. Classic books and literature garner the most broad-based support. Voters generally oppose state and federal legislation that bans books. A plurality of voters opposes banning books on the grounds of race, sexuality, and other concerns while a significant segment of voters remains deeply concerned about bans over sex and gender, and support books with LGBTQ themes, characters, and stories. Voters' perceptions of libraries, librarians, and educators are generally positive.
However, in America today the opposition to book bans and censorship is soft. The headlines across all six surveys show that only about 10% of voters are very comfortable with bans and censorship. In our September 2022 survey of registered voters, 20% of voters did not identify any of the “leading issues” of book bans, censorship, anti-access legislation, or prosecuting librarians as “concerning”. Voters may want to protect titles like the Handmaid's Tale and 1984, but they are significantly less certain about books about race or sex. Although when pressed, fully one-third of voters are open to banning books that discuss sexuality and 18% of voters are open to banning books that focus on race and CRT.
It is important for free speech and pro-library advocates to read and analyze these polls for insights into the fight for our American values. Only a slim majority of voters believe in the core principles of free expression and free access. While the majority hold beliefs that positively align with the ideals of free expression, the right for individuals and families to make their own choices, and the dignity of everyone’s story, another large part of America is aligned around these issues very differently.
2022 Polling About Book Bans and Censorship
American Family Survey (October 2022, Deseret News / BYU )
New American Family Survey finds Americans oppose removing school library books if a parent objects.
“The public really doesn’t like book banning,” said Jeremy C. Pope, professor of political science at Brigham Young University and co-investigator for the survey.
- Just 12% of Americans agree that books should be removed from libraries if a parent objects.
- Only 16% believe public school libraries include inappropriate books on their shelves.
- 65% said it was important for public school libraries to represent a variety of perspectives about controversial issues — even if it makes some people uncomfortable.
EveryLibrary Institute Voter Perceptions of Book Banning (September 2022)
Voters overwhelmingly oppose book banning in the United States.
The EveryLibrary Institute survey found that the overwhelming majority of voters strongly oppose book banning and, most significantly, that 75 percent of voters will consider book bans when voting for legislators in November.
- 91% of voters strongly or somewhat agree 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 me or my family can read.”
- Half of voters believe there is “absolutely no time when a book should be banned.”
- Only 8% of voters think “there are many books that are inappropriate and should be banned.”
- 31% of Republicans think there is absolutely no time when a book should be banned.
- 75% of voters will consider book banning when voting for legislators.
- 50% of Voters find the legislation being created to regulate Americans’ access to books most concerning.
- Voters have favorable feelings about their libraries (69%) and librarians (66%) and their schools (53%) and school librarians (62%)
Tennessee Democracy Forum Poll (April 2022)
Poll Finds More than Two-Thirds of Tennessee Voters Oppose Book Banning.
Opposition Strong Across Gender and Geography.
- 68% of voters were opposed or strongly opposed to banning books
- Of those, 58% said they were strongly opposed, 10% were somewhat opposed, 12% somewhat supported bans and 15% strongly supported banning certain books; 5% were unsure
- Older Tennesseans – 65 years old and older – were more likely to support banning certain books (39%)
- A majority of urban (78%), suburban (71%) and rural voters (64%) all opposed banning certain books
- A majority of members of a house of worship (58%) and those who are not members (78%) opposed banning certain books
American Library Association Poll (March 2022)
Voters Oppose Book Bans in Libraries
Polling Shows Voters Oppose Efforts to Remove Books from Libraries and Have Confidence in Libraries to Make Good Decisions About Their Collections.
Nine in 10 voters (90%) and parents (92%) have a favorable opinion of librarians who work in local public libraries and school libraries, including 66% of voters and 65% of parents who are very favorable toward librarians.
The vast majority of voters (89%) and parents (93%) say local public libraries play an important role in communities across the country including their own, including 64% of voters and 70% of parents who believe they play a very important role.
At even higher rates, voters (92% important, 72% very important) and parents (95% important, 71% very important) say school libraries play an important role in public elementary, middle, and high schools.
- Voters across the political spectrum have a keen sense of the importance of public libraries (95% of Democrats, 78% of independents, 87% of Republicans) and school libraries (96% of Democrats, 85% of independents, 91% of Republicans).
Navigator Polling and Message Development (February 2022)
Three in four oppose banning books, including an overwhelming majority of parents.
A range of criticisms of book banning raise concerns for more than four in five Americans as well as four in five parents. Aggregate responses from 1,395 voters as “Very Concerning” and “Somewhat Concerning” to several questions:
63% - Those who want to ban books are censoring American history. Our country was founded on the fundamental right of free speech that our service men and women have sacrificed everything to protect
60% - Those who want to ban books are preventing students from learning history and reading books which is key for them to get the education they need to succeed
58% - Those who want to ban books are dooming us to repeat history by not teaching it to the next generation
56% - Those who want to ban books are trying to insert politics into the classroom instead of letting teachers teach
- 55% - Those who want to ban books are taking away parental control of what students learn by censoring what every American child has access to
CBS YouGov Poll (February 2022)
Big majorities reject book bans. Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of banning books about history or race. (See complete poll results)
Q. Should public schools be allowed to teach about ideas and historical events that might make some students uncomfortable, or should schools not be allowed to teach about any ideas and historical events that might make some students uncomfortable?
- Allowed to teach uncomfortable ideas - 76%
Not allowed to teach uncomfortable ideas - 24%
Q. Do you think some books should be banned from schools if they contain the following things, or should books never be banned from schools because of these things?
- Political ideas you disagree with - 85% Never Ban
- Depictions of slavery - 87% Never Ban
- Discussions of race - 87% Never Ban
- Criticism of people and events in U.S. history - 83% Never Ban
The University of Texas at Tyler’s Center for Opinion Research / Dallas Morning News:
Change Over Time
The University of Texas at Tyler’s Center for Opinion Research / Dallas Morning News asked voters in August 2022, May 2022, and November 2021 about their level of trust in elected officials and of librarians and school district officials about book bans. The table below shows changes over time (emphasis added).
How much do you trust the judgment of elected state leaders in reviewing what books are controversial and should be removed from K-12 schools?
Nov-21 Aug-22 Change
A great deal 9% 11% 2%
Fair amount 19% 21% 2%
Not too much 31% 27% -4%
No confidence 35% 34% -1%
Don't know enough 6% 7% 1%
How much do you trust the judgment of local librarians and school district officials in reviewing what books are controversial and should be removed from K-12 schools?
May-22 Aug-22 Change
A great deal 14% 18% 4%
Fair amount 27% 31% 4%
Not too much 28% 26% -2%
No confidence 26% 19% -5%
Don't know enough 5% 7% 2%
See more from the UT-Tyler / Dallas Morning News collaboration: “Poll: Texans don't trust lawmakers to decide which books to ban” (Dallas Morning News, November 2021)