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.
A 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.