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JULY 18, 2016--The issue of
transgender rights has risen on the political agenda in 2016, in the wake of a
controversial North Carolina law on public restrooms and new federal rules
protecting transgender students. A new study
from the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication shows that
public opinion about transgender rights is sharply, and in some cases
increasingly, divided along party lines, just as the two political parties gear
up for their national nominating conventions.
study, a majority of Americans said they support laws to protect transgender
students from discrimination in schools. Of those surveyed, 56% favor such
protections, while 33% oppose them. However, support for such laws has declined
since November 2015, when an earlier University of Delaware Center for
Political Communication survey found
that 71% of Americans favored protections for transgender students and 26%
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Americans, these issues are new,” said CPC Director Paul Brewer. “When we first
polled on them last year, the national political battle over them was just
beginning. Now, prominent voices on both sides of the political fence—from
President Obama to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump—are taking
public stands on transgender rights issues.”
In the new
study, a majority of Americans support laws requiring people to use restrooms
that match the sex listed on their original birth certificate. The study finds that
53% of those surveyed favor such laws, while 38% oppose them.
requiring public buildings like courthouses to have gender-neutral restrooms remains
relatively steady since last year. In the new study, 48% favor doing so while
44% are opposed. In November 2015, 51% favored requiring gender-neutral
restrooms, versus 43% opposed.
The new study reveals a dramatic drop in support among
Republicans for laws protecting transgender students from discrimination in
schools. In 2015, a clear majority (62%) of Republicans favored such laws. By
July 2016, support among Republicans has dropped sharply - by 23 percentage points,
to 39%. Support for these laws has also declined among Democrats and
independents, but less dramatically.
the Obama administration has taken a stronger stance on protecting transgender
students in schools, and Republicans have adopted a national party platform
opposing its new rules, Americans' views on the issue have become more
polarized,” said Associate Professor Philip Jones of the Department of
Political Science and International Relations, who helped design the study.
“Now that the issue is receiving more media attention, and politicians are
making their positions clearer, voters seem to be picking up on the signals
from party leaders."
The National Agenda Opinion Project research was funded by the
University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication (CPC) and the
William P. Frank Foundation. The study was supervised by the CPC’s Director,
Paul Brewer, a professor in the Departments of Communication and Political
Science & International Relations.
Results are based on telephone interviews with a representative national
sample of 900 adult U.S. residents. Telephone interviews were conducted by
landline (450) and cell phone (450, including 253 without a landline phone). The
survey was conducted under supervision of the Center for Political
Communication by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The data
were collected from July 6-13, 2016. Statistical results are weighted to
correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the
complete set of weighted data is ± 4.2 percentage points.
Readers should be aware that in addition to sampling error, question
wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or
bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Please contact Paul Brewer at (302) 831-7771 for
more details about the survey’s methodology.