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A Gallup poll, conducted during the first half of May, shows that American views on transgender issues are complicated, to say the least, with opinions varying profoundly according to party ID, gender, and age. This new survey comes at a time when transgender issues are coming to the forefront of American politics, with many states pushing laws aimed at basing sporting categories on biological sex, rather than gender identification.
The survey, which interviewed 1,016 U.S adults and has a margin of error of +/- 4%, shows that a significant majority of Americans support allowing openly transgender people to serve in the U.S military if they want to, with 66% of all respondents supporting the measure while 33% said they were against it. While this means that 2/3 of the population support the measure, it is a 5 point decrease since the last poll asked the same question in 2019.
While a majority of Americans do support transgenders serving in the military by a wide margin, the opposite is true in the now hotly contested issue of gender identification in sports. 62% of those surveyed saying they support matching teams by gender determined by birth, while only 34% of adults think that teams should be matched by self-identification.
While this poll shows a relative consensus on both of these issues, a 2017 Pew Research Center study on public opinion over transgender issues shows the country is deeply divided over the topic. 54% of adults saying that sex is determined by birth and 44% said sex can be different from that of birth.
That same study shows that the country was almost divided into three equal parts when asked if the nation has gone too far, not far enough or just about right in “accepting people who are transgender”. With 39% saying the country had gone too far, 27% saying it was about right, and 32% saying the nation had not gone far enough.
Another poll conducted by Pew Research in 2019 shed some light on the acceptance of gender-neutral pronouns, with results showing that 52% felt comfortable referring to someone with these type of pronouns, while 47% said they felt uncomfortable. This study also showcased that a majority of the country (60%) have heard either a lot or a little about the use of gender-neutral pronouns.
Differences across demographics
While the Gallup poll showed common agreement on both specific issues (transgenders in the military and gender in sports) they also highlighted that there are significant differences of opinions depending on the gender and party ID of the respondent.
While 66% of Americans agree with transgenders in the military, Republicans are more likely to oppose this policy than Independents and Democrats, 55% of Republicans oppose the measure, while only 33% of Independents and 12% of Democrats thought the same. There is also a significant difference in gender, with 57% of males supporting the idea, while 74% of females thought the same.
The differences in Party ID and gender were also evident in the issue of gender classification in a sports team. An overwhelming majority of Republicans (86%) said they believe teams should be classified according to their biological sex, a substantial majority of Independents (63%), while a significant minority of Democrats (41%) thought the same.
The divide was also noticeable when looking at the opinions of male and female respondents. While 72% of men supported classifications based on biological sex, only a bare majority of women (53%) thought the same. This difference was also shown in education level, while a majority of college graduates agree that transgender should serve in the military (74%), only 57% say self-assigned gender should be the guide when separating sports.
Another interesting data nugget from this poll is that while an almost unanimous majority of self-defined liberals (92%) think that transgender people should serve in the army, that number goes down to 63% for those who support separating sports teams based on self-identification rather than gender at birth.
The results indicating the partisan divide over transgender issues is not surprising. Both Pew Research polls also showed a similar partisan divide in other similar issues: pronouns and how gender is defined. A majority of Republicans (66%) are uncomfortable with using gender-neutral pronouns, while an almost identical 64% of Democrats saying they feel comfortable. Similarly, 80% of Republicans said they think gender is determined by birth, while 64% of Democrats thought gender can be different than that of birth.
Although some of the results of these studies are quite expected, namely that opinions vary significantly depending on party affiliation, there are some interesting insights on the American public on the issue of sports and transgender issues, with Liberals and College graduates showing more hesitancy in supporting the idea that teams should be classified based on gender identity rather than biological sex.
With the cultural war becoming the new standard of American politics, we should expect both parties to push even harder at trying to reshape public opinion on transgender issues.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.