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

Percentage who feel some books should be banned has increased 10 points since 2011

Three in ten Americans are more likely to read a book if it's banned

Jul 08, 2015, 05:00 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, July 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- 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. Full results of the study, including data tables, can be found here.

"The things they're doing and saying in films right now just shouldn't be allowed."  ― Mae West
When asked to consider other types of media, adults are less likely to say there are any movies, television programs, or video games which should be banned completely. Only 16% of Americans each believe there are any movies or television programs that should be banned completely, and one fourth say the same about video games (24%). In light of this, perhaps it's not surprising that seven in ten adults believe a rating system (similar to that used for movies) should be applied to books (71%). 

Similar to books, Republicans are more likely than Democrats or Independents to believe there's ever a call for outright bans in each of these categories.

  • Movies: 24% Republicans vs. 15% Democrats & 12% Independents
  • Television: 23% Republicans vs. 16% Democrats & 12% Independents
  • Video games: 32% Republicans vs. 23% Democrats & 20% Independents

"A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity."  ― Germaine Greer
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%). 

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.

"Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors."  ― John F. Kennedy
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)

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Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between March 11 and 16, 2015 among 2,244 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #39, July 8, 2015
By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst

About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public.  New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website, TheHarrisPoll.com.

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