Americans are split on whether or not prostitution should be legal, but few support laws which mainly punish 'Johns'

Amnesty International recently caused a certain amount of controversy by calling for the legalization of prostitution, arguing that prohibiting prostitution marginalizes already vulnerable sex workers. The group will now lobby governments to abolish laws prohibiting selling sex, running brothels and paying for sex. Laws on prostitution vary greatly across the world, though in much of Europe prostitution is legal. In Germany brothels are run openly, while in the UK selling sex is legal but pimping, solicitation and running a brothel are illegal. In Sweden it is legal to be a prostitute but buying sex is a criminal offense.

New research from YouGov shows that a large majority of Americans (74%) believe that both the prostitute and their customers should face equal punishment for breaking the laws against selling sex. Only 18% believe that customers should face most of the punishment while 7% believe that the prostitute should face the brunt of the punishment. 

When it comes to whether or not these laws should exist in the first place, the public is evenly divided. 44% of Americans think that prostitution should be legal while 46% think that it should be illegal. Democrats tend to support rather than oppose legalization (50% to 40%) while most Republicans oppose rather than support legalization (54% to 34%). Independents are evenly split, 45% to 45%.

Despite widespread support for legalization, most Americans (64%) think that it is morally wrong to solicit the services of a prostitute. 

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.

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