The sex work decriminalization movement has risen to the status of a mainstream political talking-point—and more than half of voters in the United States seem to support it, according to a new poll.
In November 2019, one thousand US voters were polled by YouGov and Data for Progress regarding they would support or oppose the decriminalization of consensual paid sex, while “maintaining laws that criminalize violence.” Of them, 52 percent responded in favor—a nationally-generalizable proportion that the report’s press release claims to be the case for the “first time in history.”
The policy garners overwhelming support among a few key demographics. Two-thirds of young voters (18-44 year olds) back it, making age the single best predictor of one’s stance on the issue. Hispanic voters (70 percent) overwhelmingly agree with it.
The poll also gauged voter support for ending vice policing, a division of law enforcement departments that engage in unethical practices like sting operations. It found voters were slightly less supportive of it, with 49 percent responding favorably.
The results bolster the case for federal and state legislation currently being considered by lawmakers. Most recently, Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Presley proposed a resolution in November 2019 outlining a framework to transform the criminal justice system, which included decrim. Back in June, New York State Senators began considering a decrim bill introduced by State Senator Julia Salazar.
Democratic presidential candidates have treaded lightly when it comes to throwing support behind decrim policies. Both Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren omitted sex work altogether from their criminal justice platforms. In December, entrepreneur Andrew Yang suggested on Twitter an interest in a Nordic Model policy–sellers are technically decriminalized, while their clients are not, in turn still subjecting them to harms of criminalization.
“The conversation on sex workers’ health and lives has reached new heights in the last few years. This polling shows us something we have known all along – when you center the voices of people trading sex to speak from their experience and share the policy changes that would dramatically and drastically change their lives, decriminalization becomes an obvious choice,” said Kate D’Adamo of Reframe Health and Justice in the poll’s press release.
“It’s very simple, decriminalizing sex work is the future,” said report author Nina Luo, a fellow at Data for Progress, in the press release. “Electeds and candidates seeking office should get with where the public is and move decriminalization and the defunding of vice policing forward, or you’ll be voted out.”
Photograph of the launch of Decrim NY in 2019 by Support Ho(s)e via Twitter