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%|
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”|
|Not so strong Democrat||11.5%||0%||88.5%|
|Independent leaning Democrat||1.6%||3.3%||95.1%|
|Independent leaning Republican||33.4%||22.2%||44.5%|
|Not so strong Republican||38.%||18.3%||43.4%|
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?