Iowa Poll: Majority oppose requiring parental consent for books banned in other schools

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A majority of Iowans oppose Gov. Kim Reynolds’ plan to require parental consent before a student can check out a school library book that was removed in another school district in the state, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll has found.

Turns out, Republican legislative leaders are opposed as well.

School library books have been a flashpoint in the parents’ rights movement in Iowa and across the country. Conservative parents have rallied against books that often contain sexual scenes or LGBTQ storylines, saying the material is inappropriate for children and should be removed from schools.

School districts have their own procedures for the review and removal of library books.

Reynolds proposed a bill this year that would have amplified those decisions statewide: A book removed in one district would have been placed on a restricted list for all other schools and could be checked out by students only with parental consent.

The Iowa Poll found that 53% of Iowa adults oppose requiring parental consent for books that have been removed in other districts.

Forty-three percent favor parental consent for those books, and 4% are not sure.

The poll, conducted March 5-8 by Selzer & Co., asked 805 adult Iowans for their views on the bill, as well as other proposals the Republican majority is trying to pass this session. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Iowa Senate votes to take out 'restricted list' from Reynolds' education bill

GOP leaders in the House and Senate also took exception to the restricted list. The chairs of the House and Senate Education Committee told the Register they do not intend to advance the governor's statewide list of removed books.

And on Wednesday, the Senate passed an amended version of Reynolds’ education bill without the restricted book list.

Sen. Ken Rozenboom, chair of the Senate Education Committee, told the Register the list would be “cumbersome.”

Instead, the Senate’s version of the bill would require every school district to create a library program that “contains only age-appropriate materials,” removing any books that contain a depiction of sex acts.

Districts would be required to inform parents about how to request the removal of materials, or how to opt out their child from receiving certain materials.

A majority of Republicans support a ban list; a majority of Democrats oppose it

Republican poll respondent Melissa Hood, a 43-year-old middle school teacher from Camanche, approves of allowing parents to opt out of some books they aren’t comfortable with, but she said applying one district’s decision to schools across the state would be “incredibly ridiculous.”

“In one of my last districts, we had a very conservative family who didn't allow their children to read one of the 11th grade books that they always read. And so, the child didn’t, and they just read a different book, and it's no big deal,” said Hood, a political independent who describes herself as a leftist. “But the parents didn't make a stink about it.”

A shelf filled with "banned books" is seen at The Slow Down Coffee Co. Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Des Moines.
A shelf filled with "banned books" is seen at The Slow Down Coffee Co. Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Des Moines.

The Iowa Poll found that two in three Republicans favor the banned list proposal (66%), compared with only 11% of Democrats.

It’s also favored by 64% of evangelicals, compared with 50% of protestants, 40% of Catholics and 38% of Iowans with no religious affiliation.

Fifty-two percent of men favor the restricted list, while 60% of women oppose it.

The plan is disapproved by a majority or plurality of Iowans in each congressional district except the 4th, in northwest Iowa, where 50% approve of the proposed restrictions.

Parents of children under 18 are evenly split on the parental consent policy for banned books

Parents with children under 18 were split at 48% each on whether they favor or oppose the idea of a statewide restricted list. Half of parents with children in public school oppose the proposal (50%), while 47% favor it.

Alisa Taylor, a 43-year-old poll respondent from West Des Moines, favors requiring parental consent before a student can check out a flagged book.

“The transgender situation has gotten to be pretty big in media and stuff,” said Taylor, a mother of three. “And I don't think all parents want their kids knowing all that, especially the younger kids. … They don't even know what sexuality is.”

Sex education in schools is already lacking, and this can compound the situation, she said.

“I wouldn't want my kid just being able to pick up a book that has undertones of transgender things before I can explain to them some of those things,” said Taylor, who is a political independent and works as a gas station manager.

Challenged books often include LGBTQ subjects, same-sex sexual activity

Some of the most-challenged books in Iowa schools have included discussions of gender identity or same-sex sexual acts.

The graphic novel “Gender Queer: A memoir” has been challenged in several Iowa school districts, and Waukee Community School District removed it following a review. “Gender Queer” recounts author Maia Kobabe’s exploration of gender identity.

Van Meter Community School officials came under fire earlier in the school year when students were accidentally offered “Melissa,” a book about a transgender girl, on a reading list as part of a project. No students were ever given a copy of the book.

A small but vocal number of Iowa families have argued that books with depictions of sexual acts or discussions of gender identity should not be readily available in schools or should require parental consent for a student to read.

Iowa Republicans have proposed a flurry of bills this year related to transgender youth in schools.

Their bills would prohibit instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation through sixth grade, require schools to immediately notify parents if a child comes out as transgender, and restrict the use of school bathrooms to people of the same sex at birth.

Window factory maintenance worker and poll respondent Thaddeus Hawley of Greenfield thinks Reynolds’ proposal to create a restricted book list goes too far.

Children do not always live in households that are “welcoming of certain lifestyle choices,” said the 36-year-old father of two. Checking out a book without parental permission because “that child felt scared and alone and needed to be heard by somebody” could help them navigate the struggles they are going through.

“First, they come for the trans and the gay books and then they're gonna come for the leftist socialist books,” Hawley said, “and then they're gonna come for the Democratic books.”

Hawley, an independent, is equally concerned about how parts of America’s “brutal history” are knowingly not being taught in schools.

“They want to ban that kind of stuff, too,” he said. “And I don't know, it's a very scary time in America.”

Stephen Gruber-Miller contributed reporting.

Katie Akin is a politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at or at 410-340-3440. Follow her on Twitter at @katie_akin.

Samantha Hernandez covers education for the Register. Reach her at (515) 851-0982 or Follow her on Twitter at @svhernandez or Facebook at

About the Iowa Poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted March 5-8, 2023, for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 805 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent American Community Survey estimates.

Questions based on the sample of 805 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.

Iowa Poll methodology

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Most oppose curbing access to books banned by other schools: Iowa Poll