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.Harris Interactive recently undertook to poll people across America as a means of understanding attitudes toward book censorship and banning. It would appear that many Americans think that books should not be banned or censored (excepting older generations who lean more toward keeping certain books away from children in schools.) The poll also explored more specific questions related to 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%).The study's website has a very comprehensive layout of the polling data, including charts and tables that break down many people groups depending on age, gender, generation gaps, etc.
So what does this mean? The majority of Americans seem to be against book censorship or banning, and yet, in a number of cases, there is a strong response to the regulation of certain content in school libraries. But is this regulation a bad thing? Yes, I think it is. At least on the institutional level. Students and parents need to keep an eye on book content. The libraries can't decide on a wide spectrum what students should and should not read, so parents and students must be responsible for individual regulation of book content.
What do you think? Do you agree with the results of this study based on your own experience? What do you think of some of the more specific breakdowns in the study? Take a look!