Even Most Republicans Disagree With Trump On Transgender Military Ban

A new poll finds increasing support for transgender rights, even among Republicans.

A new poll finds that the President’s effort to ban transgender Americans from the military is losing support even among members of his own party:

It has been two months since the Trump administration put the president’s ban on people in the military into effect, and it has been two years since Trump first announced the ban in tweets that surprised even military leaders.

But Trump isn’t convincing even his own supporters of the need for the ban.

new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the ban. And while there is, generally speaking, little change from when Trump first made the announcement in 2017, there is a notable shift among one group: Republicans.

While 37 percent of Republicans supported the idea of transgender personnel in the U.S. military two years ago, that number has now increased to 47 percent.

The poll is the second this year to show that an increasing number of Republicans support allowing transgender troops. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in 2017 showed 32 percent supported the idea. By January of this year, that number rose to 40 percent.

Like the PRRI poll, Quinnipiac showed broad support for transgender troops among both Democrats and independents, meaning this is an issue on which Trump appears to be fighting an increasingly losing battle.

And it’s a battle that is very much of Trump’s own choosing. This wasn’t even an issue that was on anyone’s radar before the president tweeted out his decree in July 2017, declaring that the administration would “not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” The ban that has been put in place is slightly scaled back, although activists argue it amounts to what is effectively a ban on new transgender recruits.

The new poll is the second tidbit this week to push the ban into the news. Trump claimed in an interview in Britain last week that the military couldn’t allow transgender troops because troops aren’t allowed to take “any drugs.” The Defense Department itself has contradicted him, saying troops are allowed to take all prescribed medications, including hormone treatments for gender dysphoria and other conditions having nothing to do with transgender troops’ needs.

Looking at the PRRI poll more broadly, it finds that Americans as a whole have become widely accepting of the idea of transgender Americans servicing in the military and more accepting of idea of transgenderism generally:

  • 63% of Americans support allowing transgender soldiers to openly serve in the military;
  • When asked about laws that would require transgender Americans to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex rather than their gender identity, a slightly higher percentage (47%) oppose such laws than support them. (45%);
  • 63% of respondents say they would be “comfortable” with having a close friend tell them they are transgender;
  • 56% of respondents say that they would be “comfortable” with learning that a teacher at a local elementary school is transgender;
  • 48 % of respondents say that they would be “comfortable” learning that their child is transgender;

These results are largely consistent with other recent polling about transgender rights and demonstrate that, slowly but surely, pubic attitudes about a phenomenon that until recently has been largely kept out of the public eye are changing.

 in many ways reflects the ways that attitudes have changed on other social issues such as gay rights generally, marriage equality, and marijuana legalization. As with the changes in public attitudes about those issues, the changes in public opinion about these issues is coming at an exceedingly rapid pace. It’s not surprising, of course, that Republicans are the least likely to support transgender rights. We saw much the same thing with respect to other social issues that showed self-identified conservatives and Republicans out of step with the rest of the public. In time, though, even attitudes among those groups changed on gay rights, marriage equality, and marijuana legalization. I suspect we’ll see the same thing on this issue.

It took nearly thirty years after the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia for polling to show that a majority of Americans to show majority acceptance of interracial marriage. It took roughly the same amount of time for Americans to become accepting of homosexuality in general. It took roughly twenty years, from the passage of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s for public opinion to come around to support marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It took about the same amount of time for public attitudes to change on marijuana legalization. On this issue, though, it seems as though public opinion has changed rapidly in a very short period of time, although that could be a side effect of the increased acceptance of alternative lifestyles generally and LGBT rights in particular.

Another issue that implicates transgender rights that isn’t directly covered in the poll is the question of the rights of transgender students in public school. As I’ve noted before, Federal courts that have ruled on the issue have generally found that transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom or locker room that corresponds to their gender identity. Just this week, for example, the Supreme Court let stand a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision that rejected a challenge to an “equal access” policy by a group of students in suburban Philadelphia and, as I said, pretty much every Federal court that has ruled on this issue has sided with the transgender student. Because it apparently doesn’t ask the question, we don’t know if the public is as accepting of transgender bathroom access in the case of students who are minors as it is for transgender Americans as a whole.

Nonetheless, this poll is generally speaking good news and, perhaps, a sign that we’ll see progress in this area at a far faster pace than other social issues.

FILED UNDER: LGBTQ Issues, Public Opinion Polls, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    This is one of those cases where the reality is far different than the fear. So all it takes is exposure, which is happening, to change people’s minds.

    I have to chuckle a bit at the word “comfortable”. I was intensely uncomfortable when my child came out as trans. It lasted for a couple weeks or more. But not because I thought she was bad, but that this was dangerous for her and that I had caused it somehow, and that I would not be able to be a good parent to her. In some ways, I had lost a son, but I had gained a daughter, and she is awesome.

  2. KM says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    Agreed, “comfortable” is a horrible way to phrase it and makes it seems like one person’s rights should dependent on another’s feelings or ability to accept. People do plenty of things daily that are “uncomfortable” yet necessary; for instance, I’m terrified of needles but since I’m O-, I suck it up and go donate regularly. If asked the question “Am I comfortable with blood donation”, the answer is a resounding hell no. It gives a false impression of my interactions with blood draws and my willingness to tolerate them because it’s important for me to do so.

    More people are open to trans folks then the polls suggest because the polls are asking specifically about a warm, fuzzy feeling that’s not really necessary for civic interaction. While it’s absolutely awesome that we as a nation seem to be getting better at the whole inclusion thing, it’ not really necessarily to like, feel comfortable with or accept someone to treat them like an equal human being with all available rights.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    Good for you …and for her.

    This is just more red-meat for the right-wing bigots. For a country where “all men are created equal”…the extremists of the right-wing sure are convinced of their superiority.
    It’s worth noting that Dennison had to lie, about the increased prescription use of Transgender people, in order to justify his ban.

    “Because they take massive amounts of drugs, they have to…You’re not allowed to take drugs, you’re in the military you’re not allowed to take any drugs. And they have to after the operation, they have to, they have no choice, they have to. You would actually have to break rules and regulations in order to have that.”

    Total BS…all of it. Does he really think that there are no people in the military taking prescription drugs??? Or does he just think people, like Paul L. and the rest of his cult, will automatically believe everything he says? Or perhaps he is ignorant, AND a liar?

  4. Neil J Hudelson says:

    While a majority of self-identified Republicans are opposed to this ban, the religious right LOVES it. Trump understands that his only path to re-election involves huge base turnout, and he’s done everything right wrt keeping the religious right on his side.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    Ditto pretty much exactly.

    But as to the poll, let’s play 1939 Germany. Pose the question of how many Germans think Jews should be full members of society. 50% maybe? Ask how many think Jews should be exterminated, you’d get perhaps 10-20%.

    The essential reality of American conservatism is its dishonesty. They never admit to what they really believe.

  6. Kathy says:

    I feel sorry for those poor bigots who keep seeing more and more people accepted as human.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @KM: “comfortable” is clearly aspirational in those polls, or virtue signaling, or just delusional.

    You don’t need to be “comfortable” with people to treat them with respect, or support their rights, but I think it’s a good thing that people recognize that being comfortable would be a good thing, and are willing to lie to themselves and others, and maybe even try to become comfortable should it happen.

    I do wonder what the numbers would be like with different language though. How many people give the “right” answer vs. how many stick to their guns with a correct answer that is going to be categorized wrong.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Trump learned arguments, and then repeats them with so little understanding that he loses the entire point of the argument.

    There are medical conditions that will interfere with a soldiers effectiveness, and which we do not accept even if they can be controlled with drugs. I believe diabetes is one of them, and I expect that is at least partly because of the consequences of having the soldier’s supply disrupted.

    That’s the argument that Trump is badly paraphrasing.

    I don’t think any of the hormone therapies that transfolk need to take are going to be that terrible if disrupted, so I strongly suspect it is a bullshit argument, but I’m not a doctor.

    The implied test — Will a soldier’s medical condition increase the likelihood that they are a burden in a chaotic situation? — is a fine test. If there were actual doctors arguing it, with reasons why transfolk don’t meet that test, I could support a ban. But, they cannot even find crackpots like global heating deniers to make that case.

    Being transgender is less debilitating than bone spurs. Apparently.

  9. Kathy says:


    I don’t think any of the hormone therapies that transfolk need to take are going to be that terrible if disrupted, so I strongly suspect it is a bullshit argument, but I’m not a doctor.

    You’re right, the disruption wouldn’t be terrible at all. Plus some hormone replacement regimes can use long-term subcutaneous pellets.

    But the first clue that it’s a BS argument is that it comes from Trump.