The vast majority of Americans think books should not be banned from schools for discussing race, slavery or political ideas they disagree with.
A nationally representative survey from CBS News and YouGov that polled U.S. adults in mid-February found that 85% of Americans do not think books should be banned from schools if they contain political ideas they disagree with. Similarly 87% do not support banning books containing discussions of race or slavery. And 83% don’t think books should be banned for criticizing people and events in U.S. history either.
These large majorities against book bans hold regardless of respondents’ political party or race.
This poll comes amid Republican-led efforts to ban books from school libraries across the country.
Last month, a local school board in Tennessee banned “Maus,” a book about the horrors of the Holocaust, citing concerns about “objectionable language” and nudity. And a school board in Missouri removed Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” about American racism in the 1940s, from its high school libraries. In Texas, an NBC report found that hundreds of books had been pulled from school libraries across the state for review after conservative parents and officials pushed to ban books on race, sexuality and gender.
The push to ban certain school library books stems from Republican-led bills seeking to prevent students from learning about white supremacy and racism, under the pretense of purging so-called “critical race theory” from classrooms.
While the laws passed don’t all explicitly mention critical race theory — a college-level academic discipline focused on how racism is embedded in the country’s legal, political and social institutions — they are all written with similar language meant to stifle instruction about racism, privilege and white supremacy.
Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Idaho and Oklahoma have enacted such laws over the past year, and Republican lawmakers are pushing similar bills in nearly two dozen states.
While CBS News’ poll found that only about one-third of Americans had heard “a lot” about critical race theory, Republican and conservative respondents expressed overwhelmingly negative views of CRT.
But the poll found that a large majority of Americans (68%) agreed that teaching students about the history of race in America makes them “understand what others went through.” Another 42% said that such instruction on the history of race in the U.S. makes students “more racially tolerant today.”
When asked if public schools teach “too much,” “too little” or “the right amount” about the history of Black Americans, only 11% said schools teach too much on the subject. Another 42% said too little is taught. Black Americans are most likely to think too little is taught on this history, with most white Democrats agreeing. White Republicans are more likely to say “the right amount” is currently taught.
The vast majority of Americans said that racism has been a major problem in the history of this country (71%), and more than half (58%) said racism in America is a major problem today.
Texas’ law notably instructs teachers not to talk in class about the concept that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” based on their race or sex.
Teachers who spoke to HuffPost last June condemned the laws in Texas and other states as attempts to “whitewash” history that also lead to confusion about what they can and can’t teach.
When asked in CBS News’ poll if public schools should be allowed to teach ideas and historical events that might make some students uncomfortable, an overwhelming majority (76%) said yes.