• Polling

How Americans View the Debate Around Critical Race Theory

Friday, July 23, 2021 By Bryan Bennett
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Welcome to NAVIGATOR – a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery, and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments.

Key takeaways

  • A wide, bipartisan majority support teaching a range of historical topics related to slavery and racism in schools, from the Civil War to Jim Crow laws.
  • Almost two in five are unfamiliar with critical race theory, with Fox News-viewing Republicans driving the share who are familiar and who have unfavorable views of the theory.
  • The strongest progressive rebuttal to conservative attacks on critical race theory centers on stopping censorship of teachers and keeping politicians out of the classroom.


Biden and Democrats More Trusted to Develop Education Policy

Among parents, Biden and the Democratic Party hold a 19-point lead in trust over the Republican Party to develop education policy.

Widespread and Bipartisan Support Exists for Range of Topics Related to Racism and Slavery Being Taught in Schools

Across racial and party lines, the Civil War is seen as a priority in American history classes.

More Than a Third Are Unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory

Fox News Republicans are the most familiar with the theory (80% familiar), with 76% unfavorable towards it.

Understandings of Critical Race Theory Vary By Partisanship

For Democrats, the theory focuses on “history” and teaching about “racism”; while some independents mention this too, they also focus on whiteness and the idea that some Americans and institutions are criticized as “racist” in critical race theory. For Republicans, the conversation is mostly about making Americans feel guilty for being white, deeming it an ideology they say is “garbage,” intended to “divide,” and “Marxist.”

Americans Are Mixed on Teaching of Critical Race Theory in Schools, With Many Not Sure

Three in ten Democrats (30%), 40% of independents, 36% of non-Fox News Republicans, and 33% of parents are not sure whether to support or oppose the teaching of critical race theory.

The Strongest Argument Against CRT Critiques Focuses on Teacher Censorship and Keeping Politicians Out of the Classroom

While an argument that critical race theory is not about making people feel guilty for being white is more compelling than a conservative critique, language of teacher freedom from political censorship is 26 points more compelling than a conservative criticism about division and guilt.

Most Agree Schools Should Teach Events Like the Capitol Riot Rather Than Focus Only on Positive Progress

Among parents, 60% support teaching about events like the Capitol riot over just focusing on positive progress.

More Than Half of Americans Say Society Is Not Fair and Equal

Across party lines and racial groups, Democrats (33% fair and equal), Black Americans (36%), and Asian Americans (38%) are least likely to say American society is fair and equal.

  • At the same time, Fox News Republicans (68%) are the most likely to say American society is fair and equal.

Majority Say Some American People and Institutions Are Racist

Nearly seven in ten say at least some American people are racist, and almost three in five say that at least some of the structures of American society and government are racist.

  • Majorities of independents say at least some American people (70%) and institutions (58%) are racist.

About The Study

This release features findings from a national online survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted July 15-19, 2021. Additional interviews were conducted among 100 Hispanic voters, 101 African American voters, 100 independents without a partisan lean, and 71 Asian American and Pacific Islander voters.

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About Navigator

In a world where the news cycle is the length of a tweet, our leaders often lack the real-time public-sentiment analysis to shape the best approaches to talking about the issues that matter the most. Navigator is designed to act as a consistent, flexible, responsive tool to inform policy debates by conducting research and reliable guidance to inform allies, elected leaders, and the press. Navigator is a project led by pollsters from Global Strategy Group and GBAO along with an advisory committee, including: Andrea Purse, progressive strategist; Arkadi Gerney, The Hub Project; Joel Payne, The Hub Project; Christina Reynolds, EMILY’s List; Delvone Michael, Working Families; Felicia Wong, Roosevelt Institute; Mike Podhorzer, AFL-CIO; Jesse Ferguson, progressive strategist; Navin Nayak, Center for American Progress Action Fund; Stephanie Valencia, EquisLabs; and Melanie Newman, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

For press inquiries contact: press@navigatorresearch.org