Politics

Americans Split Over New LGBT Protections, Restroom Policies

Americans Split Over New LGBT Protections, Restroom Policies
by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • About half in U.S. say new civil rights laws needed
  • Women, younger adults, Democrats, liberals most in favor
  • Divisions remain over restroom gender policies

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are about evenly divided on whether new civil rights laws are needed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults say such laws are needed, while 46% say they are not.

Americans Split on Whether New Laws Are Needed to Protect LGBT People
Do you think new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, or not?
National adults
%
Yes, new laws needed 51
No, not needed 46
No opinion 3
Gallup, May 3-7, 2017

These data, from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll conducted May 3-7, come as Democratic members of Congress plan to reintroduce a bill that would provide protections for LGBT people from housing, employment and other forms of discrimination. The bill's potential for passage is unclear, as few in the majority Republican caucus have given their support.

LGBT rights and protections have been contentious at the state level, too. The West Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled that anti-gay assaults are not covered in the state's hate-crimes law. In Texas, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow state-funded adoption agencies and foster care services to refuse to place children in LGBT families based on religious objections. Also, bills introduced in the Florida legislature to protect LGBT people from housing and employment discrimination failed to pass in this year's legislative session.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group, 20 states have protections against discrimination in employment and housing situations for both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Liberals, Democrats and Women Most Likely to Say New Laws Needed

Among key political and demographic subgroups, support for new LGBT protections is highest among liberals (76%) and Democrats (67%), both of whom have typically been advocates for LGBT issues. By contrast, Republicans (27%) and conservatives (29%) are the least likely to say new laws are needed, echoing positions often taken by GOP political leaders.

Support for New Protections for LGBT People, Ranked by Subgroup
Do you think new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, or not?
Yes, new laws needed No, not needed No opinion
% % %
Liberals 76 20 3
Democrats 67 30 2
Women 61 35 5
18 to 29 58 41 3
Nonwhites 58 39 2
Moderates 56 41 3
Independents 56 41 2
30 to 49 55 41 3
Attends church nearly weekly/monthly 55 43 2
Attends church less often 55 42 3
Whites 48 49 3
65+ 46 49 4
50 to 64 44 52 4
Men 40 58 2
Attends church weekly 37 59 4
Conservatives 29 68 3
Republicans 27 70 3
Gallup, May 3-7, 2017

Differences in views can be found among other groups, including:

  • About six in 10 women (61%) support new civil rights laws to protect LGBT people -- significantly higher than support among men (40%).
  • More than half of 18- to 49-year-olds say new laws are needed, while less than half of those 50 and older agree.
  • Though whites have been more supportive of same-sex marriage, nonwhites are more likely to say that new civil rights laws should be created.

Americans Divided Over Restroom Policies for Transgender People

Debate over restroom policies for transgender people has roiled American politics in recent years. Most notably, a 2016 state law in North Carolina mandating that individuals use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth gender brought a swift backlash that resulted in a number of sports events, performance artists and many other business deals pulling out of the state. This cost the state deeply, and the law was eventually repealed.

Gallup has noted that the issue is a complicated one to poll on, as it is relatively new to Americans. The issue has gained in prominence -- most recently when President Donald Trump reversed federal protections that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms in public schools that correspond with their gender identity.

Currently, Americans are split on what public restroom access policies should be -- they are about as likely to say transgender individuals should be required to use a bathroom that corresponds to their birth gender (48%) as to say a transgender person should be allowed to use a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity (45%). Seven percent have no opinion on the issue.

This is a slight shift from last year, when Americans were 10 percentage points more likely to say that birth gender should dictate public bathroom use.

Americans Split on Restroom Policies for Transgender Individuals
In terms of policies governing public restrooms, do you think these policies should -- [ROTATED: require transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their birth gender (or should these policies) allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity]?
Birth gender Gender identity No opinion
% % %
May 3-7, 2017 48 45 7
May 4-8, 2016 50 40 10
Gallup

Conservatives, Liberals Support Differing Restroom Policies

Consistent with their polarized views on LGBT civil rights laws more generally, conservatives and liberals have opposing views on the issue of transgender bathroom policies. While about seven in 10 conservatives favor bathroom assignment based on birth gender, just as many liberals favor basing it on an individual's gender identity. A similar split exists among Republicans and Democrats, though Democrats are slightly less supportive of gender identity-based policy than liberals.

Slight to solid majorities of weekly and nearly weekly churchgoers, men, adults aged 50 to 64 and nonwhites would rather require people to use the bathroom of their birth gender. Meanwhile, small majorities of infrequent churchgoers, 18- to 29-year-olds and women favor allowing people to choose based on their gender identity.

Other groups are evenly split, with neither policy garnering majority support.

Views on Restroom Policies for Transgender Individuals, by Subgroup
In terms of policies governing public restrooms, do you think these policies should -- [ROTATED: require transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their birth gender (or should these policies) allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity]?
Birth gender Gender identity
% %
Republicans 71 25
Conservatives 69 25
Attends church weekly 63 30
Men 57 38
50 to 64 52 41
Nonwhites 52 42
Attends church nearly weekly/monthly 52 40
30 to 49 49 45
65+ 49 42
Independents 46 49
Whites 46 48
Moderates 44 50
Women 40 52
18 to 29 40 56
Attends church less often 39 56
Democrats 29 63
Liberals 22 72
Gallup, May 3-7, 2017

Bottom Line

Though debate about transgender restroom policies is not new to many college campuses and municipalities, the issue went national in 2016, becoming a divisive topic that has had major consequences for at least one statewide elected official and citizens whose governments have waded into the issue. But despite policy discussions on the matter that have taken place at local, state and federal levels of government for over a year, the public remains split on how to proceed.

Americans are divided on broader protections for LGBT people as well -- though a bare majority say new civil rights laws are needed. Support could grow, however, if the public becomes more sympathetic to the LGBT community amid efforts to deny or take away rights they have long fought for. On the other hand, support for more legal protections could shrink, should Americans perceive that LGBT men and women have achieved major gains in legal equality, especially as the focus shifts to transgender bathroom rights, which don't have majority support.

Elected officials looking for guidance from the public on how to navigate the issue will not find it, given the divided nature of opinion on the issue.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 3-7, 2017, with a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/210887/americans-split-new-lgbt-protections-restroom-policies.aspx
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