Poll: Should Utah schools teach about contraception?

Self-identified “strong Republicans” are the only group that clearly opposes instruction about contraceptives.

This analysis was performed by Jessica Biggs, a student research fellow at BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, in collaboration with CSED faculty. The writing is mostly hers. Inquiries about this research should come to me (Chris Karpowitz).

The Utah legislature recently passed a bill, HB 363, curtailing sex education in Utah’s public schools and prohibiting any instruction about contraceptive use. An online petition urging Governor Herbert to veto this bill has attracted over 36,000 signatures. Recently, we fielded a Utah Voter Poll that asked a sample of Utah voters whether schools should teach about contraceptives. A significant majority—58.3%—of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that public schools should teach about contraceptive use.

Question wording: “Public schools in Utah should teach about the use of contraceptives.”

“Strongly disagree” or “disagree” 29.5%
“Neither agree nor disagree” 12.3%
“Strongly agree” or “agree” 58.3%
Total responses 472

The picture changes slightly when the responses are viewed in terms of party identification. Democrats and independents are united in supporting the instruction of contraceptives in school, but Republicans are divided. Independents who say they lean Republican are split, with 33.4% opposing instruction about contraceptives and 44.5% supporting such instruction. Republicans who consider themselves “not so strong” Republicans are similarly split, with 38.4% opposing instruction about contraceptives and 43.4% supporting it.

Self-identified “strong Republicans” are the only group that clearly opposes instruction about contraceptives. A majority of these respondents (63.4%) do not support the instruction of contraceptive use in public schools. The following table shows the results to this polling question broken down by respondent partisanship:

“Strongly disagree” or “disagree” “Neither agree nor disagree” “Strongly agree” or “agree”
Strong Democrat 0% 2.2% 97.8%
Not so strong Democrat 11.5% 0% 88.5%
Independent leaning Democrat 1.6% 3.3% 95.1%
Independent 11.3% 15.1% 73.6%
Independent leaning Republican 33.4% 22.2% 44.5%
Not so strong Republican 38.% 18.3% 43.4%
Strong Republican 63.4% 6.9% 29.8%

The strong Republican dominance in Utah’s political system may allow HB 363 to escape a veto, despite the widespread approval for the instruction of contraceptive use in Utah’s public schools by a majority of Utah voters. Although Strong Republicans are the only group of Utah voters who strongly support a ban on instruction of contraceptive use, this bloc of the Republican Party overwhelmingly turns out for the caucuses and primary elections in the state. The governor faces a difficult political choice in whether or not to veto this bill; will Herbert go with the majority of Utahns, who seem to oppose this bill, or will he follow the intense preferences of the strong Republicans who support it?

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5 Responses to Poll: Should Utah schools teach about contraception?

  1. Matt says:

    Do you know what percent of respondents were strong Republican, not so strong Republican, Independent, etc?

  2. Sue Connor says:

    Herbert has a tough election ahead of him. Doubtful he will support the popular vote by the majority of Utahns and veto HB363 as he should. I say “should” since we elected him, and he is supposed to represent the public, not just “strong Republicans!

  3. Chris Karpowitz says:

    Here’s the partisan breakdown among respondents to our most recent Utah Voter Poll:
    Strong Republicans: 22%
    Not so strong Republicans: 13%
    Independent leaning Republican: 23%
    Independent: 11%
    Independent leaning Democrat: 13%
    Not so strong Democrats: 5%
    Strong Democrats: 9%
    Other: 4%

  4. Fred says:

    If you read the current law first
    http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE53A/htm/53A13_010100.htm

    and then compare it to the proposed law:
    http://le.utah.gov/~2012/bills/hbillenr/HB0363.pdf

    I believe you will find that the intent of the current law remains, with added parental input and an option for the local school not to teach the class if they don’t want to follow the law.

    From the Salt Lake Tribune: “According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of February 2011, 21 states and the District of Columbia required public schools to teach sex education, and 35 states and the District of Columbia required students to receive information about sexually transmitted infections.”

    The bill allows a local school to provide the class if they follow the law. Currently we have schools in Utah that are required to provide the class and the claim is that some schools are not following the current law. Some have even questioned if the State School Board was following the current law.

    If that is the case, either the law needs to be clarified, or we add teeth to the law, or both. HB 363 clarifies the law assuming the schools will follow the law if it is clear.

    The movement to shift the content of the class from current law significantly either way didn’t pass. Many that are upset at HB 363 do not like the current law and wanted to change it to have fewer restrictions.

  5. Pam Peterson says:

    Quit trying to control everything. The schools should ABSOLUTELY be able to talk about birht contol. It is a part of Life. Abstinence is Great but not Always realistic.

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