DeSantis’ War on ‘Woke’ and Extreme Restrictions on Education Could Backfire, Survey Suggests

Image via Getty Images/Orlando Sentinel /Contributor.

By Giselle Balido

March 13, 2023

Despite growing ultra conservative Republicans’ attempts at demonizing the term, a majority of Americans see “woke” in a positive light, and that could have a decisive impact at the ballot box next year.

As he prepares to announce his 2024 presidential run, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made an attack on “woke” a cornerstone of his political agenda, even coining the phrase “Florida is where ‘woke’ goes to die.” 

The Florida governor is not alone. “I’m running for president to renew an America that’s proud and strong, not weak and woke,” Nikki Haley said at CPAC. And Indiana GOP Rep. Jim Banks has recently formed a caucus to “defund wokeness.” 

So, what exactly is “wokeness,” and why does it rattle conservatives so much? The term was originally coined by progressive Black Americans and used in racial justice movements in the early to mid-1900s. Since then, it has come to signal an awareness of issues associated with society or the community; to be socially conscious and culturally sensitive.

RELATED: DeSantis Goes After Companies ‘Imposing Woke Ideology on the Economy’

But as defined by DeSantis and other GOP leaders, to be “woke” is to be overly politically correct and police others’ words; by this definition, a person who is woke is akin to a delicate snowflake, easily offended and weak on policy. For some it also stands for radical liberals ready to take the country down a dangerous socialist path.

However, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll conducted from March 3 to March 5, 2023, found that the majority of Americans see “woke” in a positive light. For 78% of Democrats and more than one third of Republicans (37%), the term means “to be informed, educated on and aware of social injustices.” 

“Most Americans understand that to be woke is to be tuned in to injustices around us,” Ipsos pollster Cliff Young told USA Today

Draconian Measures

This definition runs counter to DeSantis’ draconian measures to “stop the woke,” which include last year’s passage of the Parental Rights in Education Act — also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — that bans discussion of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity in public schools. 

In his attempt to “stop the woke,” the governor has also banned a high school Advanced Placement (AP) class on African American studies, claiming it was “indoctrination,” and now works to ban all AP courses in Florida. Additionally, DeSantis’ book bans in public schools across the state puts librarians in danger of losing their livelihood if they lend books blacklisted by the state education board. It has also made Florida rank #2 in book bans in the nation.

RELATED: DeSantis Continues to Impose His Agenda on Florida School Boards

DeSantis is also targeting higher education institutions, as evidenced by his takeover of New College, a small liberal arts school within the state’s public university system, stacking its board of trustees with anti-critical race theory with figures from the Christian right and MAGA world. 

Out of Touch

The results of the poll reveal that while DeSantis’ reelection victory in November appears to have cemented his confidence that voters beyond Florida will be won over by his measures to keep children “safe” from “wokeness,” and lead him to believe that most Americans share the right-wing doctrine, the reality is vastly different. 

According to the results of the Ipsos survey, as well as a Morning Consult poll earlier this year — which found majorities of voters opposed lawmakers punishing companies that speak up in favor of abortion rights and other issues — DeSantis is, in fact, out of touch with American families, and that may become evident at the ballot box next year.


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.



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