Reason Roundup

What Americans Think About Prostitution Laws

Plus: Buttigieg ekes out a win in Iowa, Mitt Romney blows everyone's minds, and more...


Support for sex worker rights crosses all sorts of demographic lines, according to a new poll from the group Data for Progress. The group found that 52 percent of American adults support decriminalizing prostitution, with replies equally split between "strongly support" and "somewhat support." Just 35 percent were opposed, with 13 percent unsure.

For the survey, conducted last November and released last week, pollsters asked people if they would support or oppose "decriminalizing sex work as New Zealand did in 2003." They explained that "this would remove criminal penalties for adults to sell and pay for consensual sex while also maintaining laws that criminalize violence."

Among younger voters, enthusiasm for decriminalization was even stronger than in the general population. Sixty-five percent of 18- to 29-year-olds were in favor, with just 26 percent opposed. And 66 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds were in favor, with just 23 percent opposed.

Support among older groups alone was still substantial: 45 percent of 45- to 54-year-old respondents favored decriminalization, as did 43 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds and 42 percent of the 65-and-older crowd. The oldest cohort was the only one to feature stronger opposition to decriminalization than support, with 51 percent either somewhat or strongly opposed to the idea.

Support for decriminalization crossed not just age cohorts but also party lines. Support was highest among Democrats, with 64 percent in favor. But 55 percent of independents were also on board, along with 37 percent of Republicans.

A mere 22 percent of Democratic respondents were against decriminalization, as were 25 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans.

Support for decriminalization also crossed the urban/suburban/rural divide:

  • 62 percent of urban Democrats, 66 percent of suburban Democrats, and 60 percent of rural Democrats said they support decriminalization.
  • 49 percent of urban independents, 66 percent of suburban independents, and 49 percent of rural independents were supportive.
  • 46 percent of urban Republicans, 35 percent of suburban Republicans, and 35 percent of rural Republicans agreed.

Suburban Democrats were the most likely of all demographic groups to express strong support, while suburban Republicans were the most likely to strongly oppose the idea. Urban independents and suburban Democrats were the least likely to express strong opposition.

A later question on the Data for Progress poll dealt specifically with policing prostitution. "Vice policing units often enforce laws against consensual sex work," the pollster would tell respondents. "One strategy they use is undercover stings and raids, in which plainclothes officers pose as potential customers, solicit sex workers and then arrest them." Respondents were then asked if they were for or against "defunding vice policing dedicated to criminalizing sex work."

"Overall, support for this policy was statistically the same as support for decriminalization," notes the Data for Progress report. "About 49 percent of voters support ending vice policing of sex work, compared to 35 percent who oppose it."

Again, support was highest among Democrats—59 percent were either somewhat or strongly supportive—but still substantial among other political groups. Forty percent of Republicans and 38 percent of independents wanted to stop vice cops from doing sex stings. And with decent numbers of all groups undecided, only 24 percent of Democrats, 46 percent of Republicans, and 39 percent of independents were outright opposed.

Suburban Democrats were the most likely to say yes to defunding sex cops (66 percent were in favor), but majorities of urban and rural Democrats agreed. And support was also relatively high among suburban independents (49 percent), urban Republicans (45 percent), and rural Republicans (42 percent).

Only three cohorts saw less than 40 percent of respondents opposed to vice stings, with support lowest among urban independents. Urban independents were also the most unwilling to stop the stings, at 53 percent.

Broken down by age, older millennials and younger Gen Xers were again the most supportive of sex worker rights on this question. A full 59 percent of 30- to 44-year-old respondents supported ending stings on sex workers. The youngest cohort trailed just behind, at 56 percent.

The 65-and-older cohort was also into the idea, with almost a majority—49 percent—saying they would end vice policing of consensual sex.


Impeachment's run comes to an end. Surprising no one, the Republican-led Senate voted yesterday to acquit President Donald Trump of both of the impeachment charges against him. The only person to vote against party lines was Mitt Romney (R–Utah), who voted for impeachment.

"The president did in fact pressure a foreign government to corrupt our election process," Romney explained to McKay Coppins of The Atlantic. "And really, corrupting an election process in a democratic republic is about as abusive and egregious an act against the Constitution—and one's oath—that I can imagine. It's what autocrats do."


Buttigieg appears to have eked out a win in Iowa:

Full results here.


P.P.S. John Mellancamp endorses Michael Bloomberg in the most cringey way possible:


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