Last week, I reported a poll in Educatuon Week, which found that half the public thinks that schools should not teach about racism today. With opinion polls, the results are influenced by many factors, including how the questions are worded. A poll by CBS got very different results.

Greg Sergeant writes in the Washington Post that Democrats should take heart from a CBS News poll: Most Americans oppose book banning. Democrats should stop being defensive.

He writes:

As Democrats debate the GOP’s all-culture-war-all-the-time campaign strategy, here’s a maxim worth remembering: If you’re wasting political bandwidth denying lies about yourselves, you’re losing.

A new CBS News poll offers data that should prod Democrats into rethinking these culture-war battles. It finds that surprisingly large majorities oppose banning books on history or race — and importantly, this is partly because teaching about our racial past makes students more understanding of others’ historical experiences.

The poll finds that 83 percent of Americans say books should never be banned for criticizing U.S. history; 85 percent oppose banning them for airing ideas you disagree with; and 87 percent oppose banning them for discussing race or depicting slavery.

What’s more, 76 percent of Americans say schools should be allowed to teach ideas and historical events that “might make some students uncomfortable.” And 68 percent say such teachings make people more understanding of what others went through, while 58 percent believe racism is still a serious problem today.

Finally, 66 percent say public schools either teach too little about the history of Black Americans (42 percent) or teach the right amount (24 percent). Yet 59 percent say we’ve made “a lot of real progress getting rid of racial discrimination” since the 1960s.

This hints at a way forward for Democrats. Notably, large majorities think both that we’ve made a good deal of racial progress and that we should be forthrightly confronting hard racial truths about our past and present, even if it makes students uncomfortable.

Culture warriors in the Republican Party want to ban all teaching about racism, in the past or present. They pass vague laws that are meant to intimidate teachers.

Their rhetorical game works this way: If you focus too much on the persistence of racial disparities in the present, you’re denying the racial progress that has taken place. You’re telling children that race still matters. You’re not telling a positive or uplifting story about our country. You’re saying America is irredeemable. You’re trying to make children hate our country, each other and themselves.

But this polling suggests many Americans doesn’t necessarily see things this way. Place proper emphasis on the idea that racial progress has been made, and it’s fine to highlight the problems that remain, even if it creates feelings of discomfort. It’s possible to tell a story that is in some ways about progress but also doesn’t whitewash our past.