We present 8–13 μm spectropolarimetry of 55 sources and 16–22 μm spectropolarimetry of six of these. This represents a substantial fraction of star formation regions that can be observed in this way with current technology on 4-m class telescopes (i.e. brighter than about 20 Jy at 10 μm in a 4-arcsec beam). Most of the sources are embedded young stellar objects (YSOs), H ii regions containing sites of star formation or bipolar protoplanetary nebulae (PPN), although a few other sources (e.g. NGC 1068, MWC 349) are also included. The majority have oxygen-rich chemistry but there are three carbon-rich sources. Many of the oxygen-rich sources show deep silicate absorption overlying featureless or optically thin silicate emission. Absorptive polarization with polarization per optical depth ( paτ)≃1–3 per cent is common, and many also show evidence for an emissive polarization component as well, although pure polarization in emission is rare. The observed ranges of paτ and pe are very similar, rather surprising in view of their origin from very different environments. Typically the absorptive polarization profiles are similar to the archetypal silicate polarization found in OMC1 BN, but an exception is AFGL 2591, which displays an additional narrow polarization feature at 11.2 μm, which has been attributed to annealed silicates. Many of the intensity absorption spectra also show an inflection near 11.2 μm, which might also be attributable to annealed silicates. The carbon-rich sources have nearly featureless polarizations in the 0.5–1 per cent range, which we ascribe to dichroism in carbon-based grains; this is the first evidence that such grains can be aligned. In two of these sources the polarization appears to be caused by absorption by SiC. A few of the polarization spectra have no straightforward interpretation.