Americans broadly oppose laws that would require transgender people to use facilities that correspond with their gender at birth rather than their gender identity, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, and three-quarters favor laws guaranteeing equal protection for transgender individuals.
Overall, 57% say they oppose laws requiring transgender individuals to use facilities that do not match their gender identity, 38% support such laws. Strong opposition (39%) outweighs strong support for these laws (25%). There’s a partisan gap on the question, with Democrats and independents more apt to oppose them than Republicans.
But Republicans aren’t broadly in favor of them either. The poll finds Republicans about evenly split on laws like this, with 48% in favor and 48% opposed. Republicans are divided by ideology, with moderate and liberal Republicans tilting against the laws and conservative Republicans breaking in favor. That mirrors a pattern found in surveys on support for legal gay marriage, with moderate or liberal Republicans generally more in favor of gay couples’ right to marry than conservative Republicans.
The poll was conducted before the Justice Department advised North Carolina that its law requiring transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth gender violated civil rights. The state faces a deadline Monday to respond to the letter and modify the law or the federal government could impose penalties.
Broad majorities of Americans say they would favor laws that guarantee equal protection for transgender people in jobs, housing and public accommodations, 75% say they back those, slightly fewer than favor similar laws protecting gays and lesbians (80% favor equal protections for gays and lesbians). Both have majority support across party lines, with Republicans a bit less apt to favor them.
Demographically, support for equal protection laws and opposition to laws requiring transgender people to use facilities that correspond with birth gender are somewhat lower among older adults, men, those without college degrees and those who live in rural areas.
Although transgender people and fictional characters depicting them are becoming more common in popular culture, most Americans (85%) say they don’t have a family member or close friend who is transgender. Younger Americans are more likely than others to have someone that close who is transgender (24% among those under age 35), as are urban residents (21%), non-whites (19%), Democrats (19%) and women (17%).
About 6-in-10 say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, that’s about on par with the share saying so in 2013.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone April 28 through May 1. Results for the full sample of 1,001 adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.