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Sorry, Senator DeMint: Most Americans Don’t Want to Ban Gays from the Classroom

- October 30, 2010

More from the YouGov Model Politics poll, this time from Justin Phillips:

Early this month, Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) angered gay rights organizations when he said that openly gay people (along with sexually active unmarried women) shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom. This comment was originally reported in the Spartanberg Herald-Journal and subsequently covered by a variety of national media outlets including CBS News.

The Senator justified his comments by suggesting that his beliefs are shared by many Americans. DeMint told the Herald Journal “[When I said those things] no one came to my defense. But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn’t back down. They don’t want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion.”

So is the Senator correct? Do Americans want openly gay men and women out of the classroom? . . .

Most Americans do not share Senator DeMint’s views. Our survey shows that a large majority of respondents—66%—support the inclusion of sexual orientation in employment nondiscrimination laws (only 20% are opposed). . . .

Even when we ask a question that more specifically measures Senator DeMint’s claim, we find that most Americans hold the pro-gay position. In our survey, 58% of respondents think that openly gay and lesbian individuals should be allowed to work as elementary school teachers, with only 26% opposed. Responses are not particularly sensitive to question wording . . . even a majority of southern respondents (52%) aren’t bothered by openly gay teachers.

So who is Senator DeMint speaking with in his informal survey of voter attitudes toward gays and lesbian? It appears to be Republicans. Among this group, a narrow plurality of respondents (45% to 38%) are opposed to allowing openly gay teachers in the classroom.