December 14, 2017

New Harris Poll Shows “Adults Are More Likely To Believe There Are Books That Should Be Banned Than Movies, Television Shows, or Video Games”

From The Harris Poll:

In just four years, the percentage of Americans who believe there are any books that should be banned has increased by more than half: 28% believe this to be the case today, vs. 18% in 2011.  One-fourth (24%) are unsure, which leaves nearly half of Americans convinced that no books should be banned completely (48%).

  • Politically speaking, Republicans are nearly twice as likely as Democrats or Independents to believe there are any books that should be banned completely (42% vs. 23% & 22%, respectively).
  • In addition, adults who have completed high school or less  are more likely than those with higher levels of education to believe there are any books that should be banned (33%, vs. 25% some college, 24% college grad, 23% post grad).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,244 U.S. adults surveyed online and in English between March 11 and 16, 2015.

Seven in ten Americans expect librarians to prevent children from borrowing materials that are inappropriate for their age (71% each).  Perhaps it’s this perception of librarians as gatekeepers that leads three-fifths of Americans (63%) to believe that children with the ability to read books electronically, without having to borrow them from a library in person, are more likely to read inappropriate materials (62%).

[Our emphasis] However, for some, a librarian as a roadblock to information access is not enough.  Three-fifths of Americans believe children should not be able to get books containing explicit language from school libraries (60%, down 2 points from 2011), while half say the same of books with references to violence (48%, same as in 2011).

Interestingly, similar numbers of adults would like to remove books that include witchcraft or sorcery (44%, up 3 points) and those with references to sex (43%, down 2 points) from school library shelves.  A little less than four in ten each would like to keep out books with references to drugs or alcohol (37%, down 4 points) and books that include vampires (36%, up 2 points).

In addition, a third of Americans (33%) don’t think children should be able to get the Koran from their school library and three in ten say the same of the Torah or Talmud (29%).  A fourth don’t think children should be able to get books that question the existence of a divine being or beings from school libraries (26%), while two in ten say the same of books that discuss creationism (19%) and 16% feel this way about books that discuss evolution.

Americans are least opposed to restricting children’s school library access to The Bible, (13%, up 2 points), the book currently crowned “America’s favorite” by a recent Harris Poll.

However, where adults are wary of what types of books children should be able to get their hands on, many are less concerned with what information they might expose themselves to by reading controversial or banned literature.  Two-fifths of Americans admit they are more likely to read a book if it’s controversial (40%), while three in ten are more likely to read a book if it’s banned (30%).  Millennials are especially likely to display both these inclinations.

  • More likely to read a book if it’s controversial (53% Millennials vs. 34% Gen X, 33% Baby Boomers, 33% Matures)
  • More likely to read a book if it’s banned (46% vs. 29%, 22%, 17%, respectively)

Direct to Complete Harris Poll News Release

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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