U.S. parents are less interested in laws that would ban transgender youth from accessing health care or prohibit the teaching of critical race theory than they are in policies that zero in on issues like affordable child care and gun safety, new polling from Navigator showed.
Majorities of independent voters, Republicans and parents of all political affiliations back Democratic-led policy proposals like expanding family and medical leave for workers and creating more affordable child care options for families, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,000 registered voters nationwide in February.
A majority of voters also ranked proposed policies, including offering free community college and reimplementing an expanded tax break for certain families with children high on their list of priorities. Expanding universal preschool education for 3- and 4-year-olds and doubling college scholarships for future teachers are also popular among U.S. voters, regardless of their political affiliation.
Overall, voters said they were mostly opposed to banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools and barring transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health care or using school facilities that match their gender identity.
More than 100 bills to ban gender-affirming health care for minors have been introduced in state legislatures this year, and four of them have already become law.
Since 2020, 18 states have enacted laws that bar transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce considered federal legislation to redefine sex in Title IX to mean “a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
Meanwhile, since 2021, at least 44 states have introduced legislation or taken other steps to restrict the teaching of critical race theory or limit how public school teachers can address systemic inequality and racism in the classroom, Education Week reported.
In January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration rejected the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) African American studies course, alleging that its subject matter contests with state law and “significantly lacks educational value.” Florida’s education department has also banned the teaching of critical race theory, a theory taught almost exclusively at the college level that assesses systemic racism.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), whose administration last year proposed a slate of model policies related to transgender students that sparked widespread outrage from students and LGBTQ advocacy groups, has also requested a review of the course.
Nearly 70 percent of voters in the Navigator poll said they opposed banning high school classes like AP African American studies. Fifty-seven percent said they also oppose removing books that some parents find to have “questionable content” from schools and libraries.
More than 1,600 books were banned in the 2021-2022 school year, a September PEN America report found, with most banned content featuring protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color and LGBTQ storylines.
According to the Navigator poll, a majority of independent voters trust Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to “looking out for children,” but are more divided on which party cares most about “children’s well-being.”
Republicans, according to the survey, stand alone in their prioritization of “preventing [children] from being exposed to woke ideas” over protecting them from gun violence. More than half of Republican respondents — 54 percent — said shielding youth from “woke” ideas about race and gender is paramount, while just 40 percent said keeping children safe from mass shootings in schools and other public places is a top priority.
An overwhelming majority of Democrats and smaller majorities of independents and parents of all political affiliations said protecting youth from gun violence is the No. 1 most important issue when it comes to the nation’s children.
More than 6,000 young children and teens in the U.S. were injured or killed in mass shootings last year, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, the largest single-year tally since the organization began tracking in 2014.
In June, Congress passed a sweeping gun safety package in response to mass shootings at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., and Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The measure, which had bipartisan support, has been criticized by Republicans including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.), who voted against the bill.
Rep. Tony Gonzales, who broke with his fellow Texas Republicans last year to pass the legislation in the House, was censured by the state Republican Party last week over his vote on the bill and other Democrat-backed legislation, including the Respect for Marriage Act.
In the Navigator survey, Democrats, independents, Republicans and parents were all in agreement, however, that making sure children “learn the things they need to know to be successful in school and life” is a top priority when it comes to the nation’s youth.
Parents and voters across the political spectrum were also similarly aligned in their prioritization of youth mental health and making child care accessible to working families, but were more divided on whether “curbing climate change” is a top priority.
When asked specifically about their educational concerns, Democrats, independents, Republicans and parents all said they are most worried about children “not learning the material they need to know” to be successful. A majority of respondents similarly agreed that mental health issues in students and a lack of funding for public schools are among their biggest concerns.