A majority of U.S. states don’t mandate sex education, even though two-thirds of Americans think students should get comprehensive birth control information at school.
A Huffington Post poll in collaboration with YouGov revealed that most Americans — both Democratic and Republican — think school sex education classes should include information about various forms of contraception, instead of just abstinence. The poll of a nationally representative sample of about 1,000 adults was conducted in late December and early January:
Twenty-two percent of poll participants who identify as Republican said they think teenagers should only be taught about abstinence, compared with 9 percent of participants who identify as Democrats. At the same time, 59 percent of Republicans said they think teenagers should be taught about various methods of birth control. Whites were somewhat more likely than minorities to support comprehensive sex ed. Those who currently have children under the age of 18 were almost twice as likely to say that teenagers should only be taught abstinence.
The poll found that 66 percent of respondents said they think sex education with information about various forms of contraception is more effective at reducing teen pregnancies than courses providing information on abstinence. This was especially true for respondents who identified as atheists or agnostics. Zero percent of this group reported thinking that courses stressing abstinence would reduce teen pregnancies, compared with 24 percent of Protestants and 19 percent of Catholics.
State requirements on sex education don’t seem to match the sentiments of most survey participants. Below are two maps showing state laws on sex education as of Jan. 1, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that focuses on reproductive health. The first map shows that many states (shown in red) do not require sex education to be taught in schools. The second shows that sex education courses in many states must provide information on abstinence, but not contraception.
Across the board, most YouGov poll respondents said they thought students should be taught sex education starting at age 12. As of 2012, more than 70 percent of middle schools taught abstinence as the most effective way to avoid pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, while more than 30 percent taught about methods of contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Most YouGov respondents said they thought parents should have the ultimate say over the sex education their child receives. Indeed, as of Jan.1, 37 states required school districts to involve parents in sex education, and 35 states allow parents to opt their children out of such coursework, the Guttmacher Institute reported.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Dec. 30-Jan. 2 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the poll’s methodology are available here.