First survey of its kind confirms national bipartisan support for the freedom to read
CHICAGO—Amid the recent proliferation of efforts to ban books in every state across the country, a new national poll commissioned by the American Library Association (ALA) shows that seven in 10 voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, including majorities of voters across party lines. Three quarters of parents of public school children (74%) express a high degree of confidence in school librarians to make good decisions about which books to make available to children, and when asked about specific types of books that have been a focus of local debates, large majorities say for each that they should be available in school libraries on an age-appropriate basis.
The new poll is the first to approach the issue of book bans through the lenses of public and school libraries. It also found near-universal high regard for librarians and recognition of the critical role that public and school libraries play in their communities.
The findings demonstrate that, far from being a partisan issue, book bans are opposed by large majorities of voters of all parties. The value of libraries and librarians has similar bipartisan support, with strong majorities of voters voicing confidence in libraries and favorability toward librarians.
- Large majorities of voters (71%) oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries, including majorities of Democrats (75%), independents (58%), and Republicans (70%).
- Most voters and parents hold librarians in high regard, have confidence in their local libraries to make good decisions about what books to include in their collections, and agree that libraries in their communities do a good job offering books that represent a variety of viewpoints.
- Nine in 10 voters (90%) and parents (92%) have a favorable opinion of librarians who work in local public libraries and school libraries.
- Voters across the political spectrum say public libraries (89% of all voters and 95% of Democrats, 78% of independents, 87% of Republicans) and school libraries (92% of all voters and 96% of Democrats, 85% of independents, 91% of Republicans) play an important role in communities and schools.
- Most voters are confident in local public libraries to make good decisions about their collections and think libraries do a good job representing a variety of viewpoints.
- Nearly eight in 10 voters (79%) and parents (79%) say libraries in their community do a good job of offering books that represent a variety of viewpoints, a sentiment held by majorities of Democrats (89%), independents (77%) and Republicans (70%), and by majorities of voters across demographic backgrounds.
- Three in four voters (75%) are confident in local public libraries to make good decisions about what books to include in their collections, and 74% of parents are confident in public school libraries’ decisions about their collections.
- Majorities of public school parents affirm that various types of books should be available in school libraries on an age-appropriate basis.
- This includes works about U.S. History that focus on the role of slavery and racism in shaping America today, such as the “1619 Project” (84%); works of literature that use racial slurs, such as “Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “Of Mice and Men” (82%); novels for young adults that portray police violence against Black people, such as “Ghost Boys” and “The Hate U Give” (68%); fiction and non-fiction books about lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals, such as “George” and “This Day in June” (65%); and works of fiction that have sexually explicit content, including scenes of sexual violence, such as “Beloved” and “Looking for Alaska” (57%)
“The survey results confirm what we have known and observed: that banning books is widely opposed by most voters and parents,” said Patricia “Patty” Wong, ALA President. “As a career librarian who began my career in public libraries working with children, I’m thrilled to see that parents have a high degree of confidence in school libraries’ decisions about their collections and very few think that school librarians ignore parents’ concerns. This truly validates the value and integrity of library professionals at a time when many are feeling burnt out because of accusations made by small but loud groups.”
More than 330 unique cases of book bans and challenges were reported to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) between September 1 and November 30, 2021. Challenge totals in 2021 have more than doubled the number of reports from 2020 (156 challenges) and far outpaced 2019 challenge totals (377 challenges). OIF will announce the full 2021 book challenge totals and the Top Ten List of Most Challenged Books on April 4, 2022, during National Library Week (April 3 – 9). The annual accounting of book censorship in the United States will be released as part of the ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report.
The survey was conducted by the bipartisan team of Hart Research Associates and North Star Opinion Research on behalf of ALA among 1,000 voters and 472 parents of children in public school. The survey was conducted March 1 to 6, 2022, and the sample is demographically and geographically representative of U.S. voters and parents. Additional survey findings and methodology can be found on ALA’s website.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all.