Most Americans Opposed to Banning Any Books

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – April 12, 2011 – Banning or censoring books has been debated for years. A new Harris Poll shows, however, that a majority of Americans think no books should be banned completely (56%) while fewer than one in five say there are books which should be banned (18%); a quarter are not at all sure (26%). The older and less educated people are, the more likely they are to say that there are some books which should be banned completely. Opinions on banning books are linked to political philosophy: almost three quarters of Liberals (73%) say no books should be banned, compared to six in ten Moderates (60%) but only two in five Conservatives (41%) who say no books should be banned.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,379 adults surveyed online between March 7 and 14, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    Books in School Libraries

    While few Americans think that there are books which should be banned completely, opinions differ on books that should be available to children in school libraries. Strong majorities say that children should be able to get The Holy Bible (83%) and books that discuss evolution (76%) from school libraries. Majorities also say so for other religious texts such as the Torah or Talmud (59%) and the Koran (57%), but approximately a quarter say these texts should not be available (24% and 28%, respectively) to children in school libraries. Half or more say that children should be able to get books with vampires (57%), books with references to drugs or alcohol (52%) and books with witchcraft or sorcery (50%) in school libraries, but between 34% and 41% say that each of these types of books should not be available there. There is no consensus on books with references to sex (48% say they should be available, 45% say they should not) and violence (44% say should, 48% say should not). A majority of Americans say, however, that books with explicit language should not be available to children in school libraries (62%).

    Additional results include:

    • Older Americans are significantly more likely than those younger to say each type of book listed should not be available in school libraries with one exception-Echo Boomers (aged 18-34) are more likely than Matures (aged 66 and older) to say that The Holy Bible should not be available to children in school libraries (15% vs. 9%);
    • Women are more likely than men to think each type of book listed should not be available to children in school libraries with the exception of the religious texts (The Holy Bible, the Torah Talmud and Koran), which men are slightly more likely to say should not be available; and
    • The more education one has the less likely they are to say that each type of book listed should not be available to children in school libraries (there is between an 8 and 25 percentage point difference between those who have a post graduate education and those who have not attended college on what types of books should not be available to children in school libraries).

    Changing Huckleberry Finn?

    One reason for asking these questions is the current debate about changing the word nigger to slave every time it appears in Mark Twain’s classic American novel Huckleberry Finn. When asked if they support or oppose this change only 13% of Americans say they support it and 77% say they oppose it with six in ten (59%) strongly opposing it. Men and those with more education are more likely than women and those with less education to oppose this change. Additionally:

    • Despite stronger support for some book censorship explored in this survey, Conservatives are equally as likely as Moderates and Liberals to oppose this change to Huckleberry Finn (76%, 78% and 77%, respectively);
    • White adults are more likely to oppose this change (80%) than are those who are Hispanic (71%) or Black (63%); and
    • Despite its setting in the antebellum South, Southerners do not have outlying opinions regarding the proposed changes to Huckleberry Finn. Rather, Easterners are least opposed to the changes (71%) and Midwesterners are most opposed (81%) with Southerners and Midwesterners falling in the middle (78% and 79% respectively).

    So What?

    In this survey the minorities are as interesting as the majorities: large numbers of adults think that The Holy Bible (11%), the Torah (24%), the Koran (28%), books with vampires (34%) or ones which discuss evolution (16%) should not be available in school libraries, and 18% of the public think some books should be banned completely, including 26% of Conservatives and 29% of Matures.

     

    TABLE 1A

    BOOKS CHILDREN SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET FROM SCHOOL LIBRARIES

    Do you think that children should or should not be able to get the following books, or types of books, from school libraries?

    Base: All adults

     

    Should (NET)

    Definitely should

    Probably should

    Should not (NET)

    Probably should not

    Definitely should not

    Not at all sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The Holy Bible

    83

    62

    21

    11

    5

    5

    6

    Books that discuss evolution

    76

    46

    30

    16

    8

    7

    8

    The Torah or Talmud

    59

    32

    27

    24

    10

    14

    17

    The Koran

    57

    31

    25

    28

    11

    18

    15

    Books which include vampires

    57

    23

    33

    34

    20

    14

    9

    Books with references to drugs or alcohol

    52

    22

    29

    41

    27

    14

    7

    Books which include witchcraft or sorcery

    50

    22

    29

    41

    20

    20

    9

    Books with references to sex

    48

    20

    28

    45

    28

    17

    7

    Books with references to violence

    44

    17

    27

    48

    32

    17

    8

    Books with explicit language

    32

    16

    16

    62

    32

    30

    6

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 1B

    BOOKS CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET FROM SCHOOL LIBRARIES

    Do you think that children should or should not be able to get the following books, or types of books, from school libraries?

    Summary of those saying probably should not or definitely should not

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Books with explicit language

    62

    48

    61

    68

    74

    57

    67

    Books with references to violence

    48

    34

    47

    52

    67

    43

    54

    Books with references to sex

    45

    39

    43

    50

    49

    40

    50

    Books with references to drugs or alcohol

    41

    38

    40

    41

    47

    39

    42

    Books which include witchcraft or sorcery

    41

    26

    32

    47

    62

    40

    41

    Books which include vampires

    34

    18

    22

    40

    64

    32

    36

    The Koran

    28

    25

    27

    25

    43

    30

    27

    The Torah or Talmud

    24

    20

    22

    21

    37

    25

    23

    Books that discuss evolution

    16

    12

    16

    14

    26

    15

    17

    The Holy Bible

    11

    15

    11

    7

    9

    11

    10

     

    Total

    Education

    Political Philosophy

    H.S. or less

    Some college

    College grad

    Post grad

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Books with explicit language

    62

    65

    62

    58

    53

    74

    61

    42

    Books with references to violence

    48

    55

    49

    38

    38

    56

    49

    33

    Books with references to sex

    45

    51

    44

    39

    35

    58

    43

    30

    Books with references to drugs or alcohol

    41

    46

    42

    35

    27

    50

    41

    26

    Books which include witchcraft or sorcery

    41

    48

    41

    32

    25

    52

    42

    19

    Books which include vampires

    34

    40

    33

    25

    27

    42

    35

    17

    The Koran

    28

    38

    26

    18

    13

    39

    26

    16

    The Torah or Talmud

    24

    32

    23

    15

    11

    30

    22

    16

    Books that discuss evolution

    16

    22

    14

    11

    5

    25

    14

    7

    The Holy Bible

    11

    14

    11

    5

    6

    7

    12

    13

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    ARE THERE BOOKS WHICH SHOULD BE BANNED COMPLETELY

    Do you think that there are any books which should be banned completely?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Political Philosophy

    Education

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    H.S. or less

    Some college

    College grad

    Post

    grad

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    18

    13

    15

    19

    29

    26

    15

    12

    20

    18

    16

    15

    No

    56

    68

    59

    56

    36

    41

    60

    73

    49

    58

    64

    68

    Not at all sure

    26

    19

    26

    25

    35

    33

    25

    14

    31

    24

    20

    17

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3

    SHOULD HUCKLEBERRY FINN BE CENSORED

    Some believe that the word nigger should be removed from where it appears in Mark Twain’s classis American novel, Huckleberry Finn, and be replaced by the word slave. Do you support or oppose this change?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Political Philosophy

    Education

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    H.S. or less

    Some college

    College grad

    Post grad

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Support (NET)

    13

    14

    13

    12

    15

    14

    9

    8

    Strongly support

    7

    6

    7

    8

    8

    6

    5

    5

    Somewhat support

    7

    8

    6

    5

    7

    8

    4

    3

    Oppose (NET)

    77

    76

    78

    77

    73

    77

    83

    87

    Somewhat oppose

    19

    16

    20

    19

    17

    18

    22

    23

    Strongly oppose

    59

    60

    58

    58

    56

    59

    62

    64

    Not at all sure

    9

    10

    9

    10

    12

    9

    8

    5

     

    Total

    Race

    Gender

    Region

    White

    Black

    Hisp.

    Male

    Female

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Support (NET)

    13

    11

    27

    16

    11

    15

    17

    12

    13

    11

    Strongly support

    7

    5

    19

    8

    5

    8

    9

    6

    6

    5

    Somewhat support

    7

    6

    7

    9

    6

    7

    7

    7

    7

    6

    Oppose (NET)

    77

    80

    63

    71

    81

    74

    71

    81

    78

    79

    Somewhat oppose

    19

    18

    23

    14

    18

    19

    17

    20

    22

    14

    Strongly oppose

    59

    62

    40

    57

    63

    54

    55

    61

    56

    65

    Not at all sure

    9

    9

    10

    12

    8

    11

    12

    6

    10

    10

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 7 to 14, 2011 among 2,379 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

     

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39773

    Q905, 910, 920

     

     

    The Harris Poll ® #47, April 12, 2011

    By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

    About Harris Interactive

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