By large majorities, American say they oppose recent efforts to remove books from schools and libraries, and say they trust in librarians to make appropriate collection decisions. The news comes from a national poll commissioned by the American Library Association, released this week at the Public Library Association conference in Portland, Ore.
Amid a proliferation of new legislation in some states and an uptick in efforts to ban books nationwide, the ALA poll found that 71% of voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, including majorities of voters across party lines. Furthermore, 74% of parents of public school children expressed “a high degree of confidence” in school librarians to make good decisions about which books to make available to children. The poll also found librarians to be held in high in their communities.
Among the poll's other key findings:
- The 71% who oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries includes majorities of Democrats (75%), independents (58%), and Republicans (70%).
- Some 90% of voters, and 92% of voters who are parents, expressed 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.
- Some 79% of and parents say libraries in their community do a good job offering books that represent a variety of viewpoints, across the political spectrum: Democrats (89%), independents (77%) and Republicans (70%).
- And 75% of voters said they are confident in local public libraries to make good decisions about what books to include in their collections, with majorities of public school parents affirming that various types of books should be available in school libraries on an age-appropriate basis—including works that address racial issues, 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%); and fiction and nonfiction books that include lesbian, gay, and transgender experiences, such as George and This Day in June (65%).
ALA officials say the poll numbers affirm that, far from being a partisan issue, book bans are opposed by large majorities of voters of all parties.
“The survey results confirm what we have known and observed: that banning books is widely opposed by most voters and parents,” said ALA president Patty Wong, in a statement. “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.”
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.
ALA officials say that the number of book challenge totals in 2021 more than doubled the number of reports from 2020. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom 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).