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PRESS RELEASE: Poll finds Democratic voters support decriminalizing sex work by a 3-to-1 margin

For Immediate Release: National poll finds Democratic voters support decriminalizing sex work by a 3-to-1 margin

Contact: Nina Luo 636-288-8279 or nina@vocal-ny.org

Monday, March 18 at 11:30 am


New national poll by Data for Progress finds Democratic voters support decriminalizing sex work by a 3-to-1 margin. Nearly 60% of Democrats support the New Zealand model, which removes criminal penalties for adults selling and paying for consensual sex, versus just 17% who oppose. The remainder are neutral or don’t know.


New York, NY -- From April 29 through May 3, progressive think tank Data for Progress, in collaboration with Decrim NY, surveyed 1,012 voters across the country with the question: “Would you support or oppose decriminalizing sex work, as New Zealand did in 2003? This would remove criminal penalties for adults to sell and pay for consensual sex.” Voters chose from six options: strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, somewhat oppose, strongly oppose, and not sure. The poll result is representative of the US voting population by age, race, sex, education, and US Census region.


Democratic voters expressed support for decriminalization by a 3-to-1 margin (56% support, 17% oppose, the remaining 27% are neutral or don’t know). Conversely, 46% of Republicans opposed decriminalization, while only 29% expressed support (the remaining 25% are neutral or don’t know).


Notably, the result indicates a strong Democratic preference for decriminalization (where policing, incarceration, and criminal records are removed from the lives of people who sell and buy sex), not the Nordic Model, which seeks to end the sex industry by criminalizing clients of sex workers and anyone who lives with, works with, or provides services to sex workers, including drivers, landlords, roommates, family and loved ones.


“This represents a new line in the sand being drawn in progressive politics. Increasingly, Democratic voters are connecting this issue with issues they already support: the rights of workers, immigrants, communities of color, and LGBTQ people. This is especially key as all these communities are under attack in the era of Trump,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data for Progress, “Public opinion is fully supportive of decriminalization, the question is when politicians will respond.”


“Every Democrat who supports workers’ rights and bodily autonomy should support decriminalization,” said Evan Roth Smith, Co-Founder of Slingshot Strategies and former policy director for Suraj Patel’s congressional campaign. “Democratic voters aren’t interested in half-measures while the Republican Party launches a full-blown assault on the dignity of all work and the right of every person to control their own body. Last year’s elections proved that passionate, principled candidates win on these issues.”


“It’s not surprising that the clear majority of Democrats support decriminalizing sex work,” said Jared Arader, President of the Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s largest LGBTQ political club. “Progressives demand that their elected officials respect bodily autonomy, a fundamental principle of the movement to decriminalize sex work. This is particularly true of voters in our communities, who are all too familiar with how the criminalization of sex work is used to profile and police LGBTQ bodies and sexuality.”


“Immigrant and migrant Asian & Pacific Islander American women have long been targeted by the criminalization and policing of sex work,” said Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou. “There is clear support to provide these women with language-accessible, culturally-sensitive resources and labor rights to end the exploitative and abusive treatment they experience. The time is now to end the criminalization of sex work and to have real discussions on how we best can support a community of disproportionately female, minority, transgender and/or undocumented individuals who have faced horrific conduct from our justice system. I look forward to working with my colleagues in bringing true reform to our system.”


“The Gay rights movement was founded based upon two overriding principles, full equality in law for the LGBTQ community and sexual liberation,” said Allen Roskoff, President of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club. “Decriminalizing sex work is an integral step toward full sexual liberation and there is a growing consensus that supporting anything less does severe damage to already marginalized members of our community. It is a moral imperative that our elected officials, especially those from the LGBTQ community, support the disenfranchised and advocate for decriminalization.”


“As this issue continues to gain traction, elected officials will be forced to pick a side,” said Cecilia Gentili, principal at Trans Equity Consulting and Decrim NY Steering Committee member. “The question we have for you is, are you on the side of trans and undocumented people, the people with lived experiences in this issue who have been violently arrested and deported because of criminalization, who are afraid to report exploitation because of criminalization, who have to engage in sex work as a means of survival but face danger because of criminalization? Or are you on the side of a heteronormative morality that has pushed our communities to the margins for decades?”


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