As state lawmakers consider new legislation to protect libraries and their staffs from possible book bans, a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll suggests most New Jerseyans worry that such bans could end up impacting the education of children across the state.

According to the poll results released on Monday, 58% of adults are more concerned that schools may ban books and censor topics that are educationally important, compared to 35% who say they are more concerned that schools may teach books and topics that students or their parents feel are inappropriate.

When asked about recent laws throughout the U.S. regarding banned books or making it illegal for teachers to discuss LGBTQ or racial issues, a majority of 56% said such measures are mostly being driven by politicians who want to advance their careers. Thirty-one percent believe the effort is mainly driven by parents' concerns.

"When we assess views in a scientific and representative way, public opinion on this issue shows — like many other topics — that the loudest voices do not necessarily represent the majority," said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

With the exception of three groups, more than half of every demographic in the poll is more concerned about book bans than inappropriate content. Twenty-seven percent of Republicans believe offensive content is the bigger concern, along with 50% of 35-to-49-year-olds and 50% of individuals who don't identify as transgender or know someone who is transgender.

Despite their views, Republicans in the poll are split on the motivation behind moves such as book bans. Forty-four percent believe they are politically motivated, while 43% believe such rules are driven by genuine parental concern.

'Freedom to Read Act'

A proposed law introduced in the newest session of the New Jersey Legislature requires school boards to create a policy related to the material in libraries, and a policy regarding a process that must be followed when someone wants a book pulled from the shelves.

Under the "Freedom to Read Act," the material in libraries would have to be "diverse and inclusive," including protected classes in New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination. The material, the bill notes, would have to be both age- and grade-appropriate.

Also, the proposed law provides civil and criminal liability protection to librarians and other library staff who operate under the rules of the bill.

The measure was scheduled to be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 15, but it was pulled from the agenda.

State lawmakers in 2023 did not succeed with a measure that would have cut state funding to libraries that remove certain books from their shelves.

NJ towns with the biggest increases in wealth

Top 20 municipalities in New Jersey where the median household income has grown the most in a decade. The data is based on U.S. Census' American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for the years 2012 and 2022.

Gallery Credit: New Jersey 101.5

LOOK: 19 Black historical figures you probably didn't learn about in class

As more states add bans on teaching Black history in classrooms across America, Stacker highlighted 19 underrepresented trailblazers to keep in mind.

Gallery Credit: Stacker

More From WPG Talk Radio 95.5 FM