Majority Of Americans Oppose ‘Bathroom Bills’ Aimed At Transgender Americans

Surprising results from a new poll regarding "bathroom" bills and transgender Americans.

Transgender Bathroom Sign

A new CNN/ORC poll shows that a majority of Americans oppose bills restricting the right of transgender Americans to use the restroom corresponding with the gender they identify with, an issue that has received renewed national attention in the light of the controversy over a new North Carolina law:

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 ahttps://www.outsidethebeltway.com/transgender-rights-and-the-sudden-conservative-obsession-with-bathrooms/ 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%)

On some level,the results of this poll are surprising given the fact that this is still such a new issue for the public and that, at least in the past, polling has shown a broad misunderstaning among the public as a whole regarding exactly what it means when someone identifies as transgendered and the fact that social conservatives have been rather skillful in spreading fear and disnformation regarding the issue of transgendered people using the bathroom that corresponds to the gender they identify with, including spreading fears that appear to be largely unfounded that allowing such things would endanger women and young girls. This fear mongering has led to measures such as the new law in North Carolina as well as last November’s rejection of a city ordinance in Houston that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity after a campaign that was based largely on creating the fear that “perverts” would take advantage of such laws to prey on women and children. The fact that there is little evidence to support these claims of alleged danger has turned the entire “bathroom privacy” movement into what seems to be little more a parody of the decade long opposition to marriage equality, which also raised horror stories about the consequences of allowing gay couples to marry, all of which have proved to be nonsense. Another surprising result from this poll is the fact that Republicans appear to be essentially evenly divided on this issue, a result which suggests that it is really just a small segment of the public that is concerned over the issue of who is using which bathroom and whether someone who identifies as a woman and whose external appearance seems to indicate they are female should be forced to use a men’s restroom because they have a Y Chromosome. The poll also suggests that most Americans support laws that allow those who identify as transgender to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender they identify with. Assuming that this is accurate rather than an outlier, it suggests that this is a social issue that the religious right may have already lost the initiative on before the fight even really began.

On the whole, poll results such as these strike me as a largely positive development when it comes to how society deals with an issue that, in many respects, is still relatively new for most Americans. In the end, trying to regulate which bathroom someone uses strikes me as something that is so utterly silly that one wonders why anyone would waste any legislative time on it at all. As I’ve noted, requiring a transgender person to use the restroom other than the one assigned to the gender they identify with is far more likely to put someone in danger than a law which goes the other way or even the status quo under which there generally has been no law and transgender men and women have been using public restrooms without anyone being the wiser. Of course, in that case the person being put in danger is the transgender individual themselves, a group that has often been the target of violence in the past simply because they are different. Add into all of this the fact that there is simply no evidence that allowing transgender individual to use the men’s or women’s restroom as they see fit, and it all suggests that, just maybe, the political and legal battle over same-sex marriage, and the corresponding broad-based acceptance of homosexuality that we’ve seen over the past fifteen to twenty years, have made Americans more open minded about these issues even when they may not completely understand what they are all about. That’s at least some good news.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    I am pleasantly surprised.

    There was an interesting moment in an NPR interview with voters in Indiana before that state’s primary. IIRC, someone had asked a Cruz supporter what she thought of the Senator’s use of the bathroom issue on the stump and her response was something along the lines of “we need to stop turning against one another” or similar. The NPR reporter then went on to say that this wasn’t an uncommon response in Indiana–that people were basically exhausted after the religious freedom bill (and subsequent backlash) and they just didn’t really seem to want to go back down another culture war path.

  2. KM says:

    Most people aren’t as stupid as PTB think they are. They understand very well that these laws are poorly-written excuses to screw over an unpopular segment of the country. They understand the consequences of these laws range from ridiculous to horrible with no tangible benefit – that’s why there’s been so many pee police jokes. They’ve actually used public restrooms and know they aren’t genital-flashing, danger-infested dens of sin (just generally gross).

    Most people really really don’t care. Once past the reflexive reaction to change, they realize nothing has changed. “For God’s sake, it’s the bathroom! Why are people making this so complicated?” is a common refrain. It’s a stupid fight on the face of it and everyone but hysterical pearl-clutchers know it. This was not the hill for the GOP to die on……

  3. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: Oh, you should see the pearl-clutching over at TAC.

    (I just got called a shill of the Japanese government over there. Guess the idiot never heard of post-doc fellowships. Sort of like calling someone at CERN a spy for the Swiss government. Rod’s got some real cranks, sometimes.)

  4. Lit3Bolt says:

    Rod Dreher wept, because America wasn’t full of bigotry and hate.

    Seriously, I dunno when your Christianity became whinging about not being able to use state power to persecute whoever you regard as sexually deviant.

    I hope Rod dies and discovers God is actually RuPaul.

  5. DrDaveT says:

    Republicans are divided by ideology,

    Correct…

    with moderate and liberal libertarian-wingnut Republicans tilting against the laws and conservative theocratic-wingnut Republicans breaking in favor.

    …FTFY. Trying to apply the “liberal to conservative” spectrum within the Republican Party is both a misunderstanding of what divides Republicans, and an exercise in splitting gnats. Kind of like dividing the color ‘indigo’ into low-frequency and high-frequency EM waves…

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Most people with children, elderly dependents, and disabled adult charges also understand that many big box stores, like Target and Home Deport, also offer family restrooms, where caregivers and dependents can all go together into a single, lockable room to deal with their stuff.

    If you are that worried, those restrooms are always an alternative. One of my sisters-in-law had been a WalMart fan for years until she had toddlers and discovered the family bathroom at Target. Now she only goes to WalMart if she’s shopping by herself.

  7. Tyrell says:

    Many of the small businesses around here do not offer public restrooms. There are a number of reasons why. Most of these have in and out customers, but also include some stores and repair shops. I do not know if there are any laws that require restrooms. If I owned a business I could imagine a number of problems with more government control of this. As a business owner, if I can’t have control of the restrooms, then I just won’t have any. I would make sure that they are clean, maintained, no leaks, and that they are stocked with supplies. I would most likely have them under lock and key.
    As far as dressing rooms and showers, I can well imagine a “Porkys” situation occurring with some individuals mistakenly thinking that they can go in there, peeking around, and not get into trouble. Not often, but a few will try it. Hopefully they will run across some lady dressed in cleats and carrying….a ball bat or golf club !
    Most of the discussion and concerns around here are from parents. Under no circumstances should children under 12 -14 go into public restrooms alone. Schools and private businesses should be exempt from rules except health and plumbing codes. Restroom space at schools is already at a premium and they can’t afford to have separate ones. And the showers in most schools are usually wide open; no closeable stalls.
    I have the question of transvestites and cross dressers: to my knowledge, these people are not identifying with the opposite sex, they are just dressing that way for various reasons. Where do they fit in with all this ?
    And this “identification” stuff – how does that work ? Can people just identify now? Where does that leave the birth certificate, which is supposed to be a legal document ?
    In some ways this does seem trite and small fries, considering that we are talking about .01% of the population. The main issue is clean restrooms and that they have towels ! So the Federal government needs to butt out (sorry for the pun)and worry about the terrorists, the states need to go back to fixing roads and schools. and the local towns need to concentrate on attracting some new businesses and restaurants (with clean restrooms*. )
    * I don’t particularly like those automatic sink faucets. It’s a devil getting them to come on and then they cut off too soon so you have to start all over again.

    http://thefederalist.com/2016/05/09/the-truth-about-north-carolinas-bathroom-bill/

    “I’m walkin’ just can’t you see, and I’m talkin’ about you and me, and I”m hopin’ you’ll come back to me” (the incredible Fats Domino)

  8. Argon says:

    I’d be or@Lit3Bolt: Rod should be more worried about a kid sharing a bathroom with a priest.

  9. Hal_10000 says:

    Of course most Americans oppose these laws. Most Americans are sensible and don’t think we should pass law addressing problems that don’t exist.

  10. Tony W says:

    Most Americans support reasonable gun control, reigned-in military spending, open dialogue with other nations and single-payer health care as well.

    What most Americans support is rarely what gets passed by our ‘representatives’ in Congress.

  11. Guarneri says:

    I was hoping the issue would go on and on. What better way to keep progressives impotently occupied guarding against existential threats to civilization. Now we’ll have to distract them with Romper Room reruns.

  12. stonetools says:

    Loretta Lynch is on the case:

    Today, we are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina. We are seeking a court order declaring House Bill 2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement. While the lawsuit currently seeks declaratory relief, I want to note that we retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds.

    This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them – indeed, to protect all of us. And it’s about the founding ideals that have led this country – haltingly but inexorably – in the direction of fairness, inclusion and equality for all Americans.

    This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry. That right, of course, is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution, and in the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community. Some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown, and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change. But this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness. What we must not do – what we must never do – is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human. This is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something they are not, or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination and harassment.

    Let me speak now to the people of the great state, the beautiful state, my state of North Carolina. You’ve been told that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm – but that just is not the case. Instead, what this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. This law provides no benefit to society – all it does is harm innocent Americans.

    This administration has been the greatest administration for LGBT rights ever. I wonder if Doug is ever going to praise Obama for that. Oh well.
    As to the majority opposing such bills, that’s great-and shows just how much the right has lost ground in the culture wars. But the Administration should take this action whether the majority of the country supports it or not.

  13. Hal_10000 says:

    single-payer health care as well.

    35-40% is a majority? Interesting.

  14. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: Most Americans oppose the administrations deal with Iran. Most oppose the Obama Care and this will get worse next year when double digit rate increases hit them. Most Americans are concerned with the growth of ISIS, terrorism, and want a stronger military.
    So what we have is growing ISIS danger here in the US and the federal government is spending their time pushing around the states.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    I was hoping the issue would go on and on. What better way to keep progressives impotently occupied guarding against existential threats to civilization.

    Actually the reverse is true…it is certain conservatives who are so concerned about an existential threat to civilization–people they perceive as perverts preying on innocent victims in bathroom stalls…

  16. Tony W says:

    @Hal_10000: Mine is a year newer. We could probably play this all night.

  17. Tony W says:

    @Tyrell: Just because Chuck and Wally down at the local diner oppose the same things as you does not mean that most Americans agree. It’s a big country with people of all stripes.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Every now and then I am forced despite my cynicism, despite even my atheism, to say God Bless America and the American people.

  19. Guarneri says:

    @An Interested Party: @An Interested Party: @An Interested Party:

    Somehow the Republic has survived for over 200 years without this vital issue being addressed……….by progressives. What next, the safe spaces of snot nosed progressives attending university being invaded by meanies and their uncomfortable viewpoints ?? That would never happen……

  20. Davebo says:

    @Tyrell:

    Most Americans oppose the administrations deal with Iran.

    Not so much

  21. DrDaveT says:

    @Guarneri:

    What next, the safe spaces of snot nosed progressives attending university

    Awww, they wouldn’t let you in? That’s a shame.

  22. MBunge says:

    What conservatives missed in this is that while transgenderism has been in the public consciousness for decades, it hasn’t been tied up in the whole struggle over normalizing homosexuality. People may look at it as a medical/psychological condition they don’t understand but there’s no longstanding traditional animus toward it. Maybe it’s because the average person links it to transvestism, which has always been seen as more comical than threatening.

    They’re trying to exploit a fear that most people just don’t have.

    Mike

  23. Grumpy Realist says:

    @MBunge: there seem to be a lot of people (especially on the right) who confuse transgenderism with transvestism. And on the left as well.

  24. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Grumpy Realist:

    I think it’s (mostly) not confusion, it’s ignorance. We are talking about approximately 0.5% – 3% of the population. And for a good portion of that population segment, they are able to “pass.” So, quite literally, the only real world experience people have had (that they were aware of) is seeing someone with prototypical male/female characteristics in the “wrong” clothes.

    Really, I’ve been quite proud of the U.S. on this issue. It took decades to even come close to “normalizing” homosexuality in our culture (longer if you consider the freer sexuality of the 20s and early 30s). Transgender issues have been front and center for, what, 6 months? Maybe longer if you count Bruce coming out as Caitlyn? And yet most of society seems to be grappling with it in a positive manner, even while new concepts like non-gendered pronouns (“ze” or “they”) are being introduced at a rapid pace.

  25. J-Dub says:

    @Tyrell:

    Most oppose the Obama Care

    Most Americans are angry that Obamacare replaced the Affordable Care Act, which they all love! I don’t put much faith in the opinions of most Americans.

  26. J-Dub says:

    @michael reynolds: Welcome back

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Somehow the Republic has survived for over 200 years without this vital issue being addressed……….by progressives.

    Once again, you are confused (yes I know that’s hardly surprising)…it is certain conservatives who are freaking out over transgendered people using the bathroom, not progressives…

  28. Tony W says:

    @J-Dub: Can’t echo this enough – glad to have you around Michael

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    trying to regulate which bathroom someone uses strikes me as something that is so utterly silly that one wonders why anyone would waste any legislative time on it at all.

    It’s an election year – i.e. political theater for the stupidbase.

  30. KM says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    new concepts like non-gendered pronouns (“ze” or “they”) are being introduced at a rapid pace.

    Maybe I’m old-school polite or just spent waaaaay too much time with customers/clients/patients but my default pronoun for someone other then myself is “they”. Unless there’s a specific need to use “him/her” (most often as a physical descriptor to a listener for identification purposes), it just makes more sense to use “they”. I’ve been told I sound very formal on occasion because of it but it never occurred to me this was unusual.

    In English, it serves no true purpose as our language is rather genderless and means I can create email templates easily. I’ve always found it hilarious when a co-worker runs up in a panic as asks “Is Chris/Sam/Tyler a guy or girl?! Can’t tell from the email and I have a call in 5 mins!!” My advice is always wait for them to speak and if not sure stick with “you/they/them” -it’s not like it really matters in the long run and being formal in an initial call never hurts 🙂

  31. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: The problem with those who oppose ObamaCare is there’s no other alternative that has been proposed yet that solves the original problems.

    You want to be at the whim of the insurance companies? Great–you get cancer and they’ll look for a reason to cancel your coverage. “Murder by spreadsheet” it was called.

  32. MarkedMan says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    So, quite literally, the only real world experience people have had (that they were aware of) is seeing someone with prototypical male/female characteristics in the “wrong” clothes.

    And, inevitably, some of the RWNJ’s have taken it upon themselves to “guard” restrooms and try to keep out these horrible trannies. So far in at least two cases all they have done is absolutely humiliate two women who, shall we say, are not going to win any beauty pageants. So after a life time of dealing with people disparaging their looks those women now have to deal with RWNJ’s blocking their way into a public restroom and demanding proof of their gender.

    What a bunch of tools…

  33. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @KM: One of the very nice things about living in Texas is that “y’all” is a perfectly acceptable gender-neutral personal pronoun that nobody thinks twice about.

  34. Kylopod says:

    @KM:

    I’ve always found it hilarious when a co-worker runs up in a panic as asks “Is Chris/Sam/Tyler a guy or girl?! Can’t tell from the email and I have a call in 5 mins!!”

    In Hebrew, there are separate forms of you depending on whether the person being addressed is male or female, and verbal conjugation requires the speaker to reveal his or her own gender. There are at least four ways of saying “I love you,” depending on the gender of the speaker and the addressee. Even for a mundane sentence like “I’m going to the store,” you either have to reveal your sex or lie about it. SNL’s “Pat” wouldn’t fly in Israel.

  35. Moosebreath says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    “One of the very nice things about living in Texas is that “y’all” is a perfectly acceptable gender-neutral personal pronoun that nobody thinks twice about.”

    Kind of like “youse” throughout most of the Northeast, or “yinz” in Pittsburgh.

  36. J-Dub says:

    Kind of like “youse” throughout most of the Northeast

    I’ve lived in the Northeast my entire life and have never heard a single person say “youse”.

  37. Scott F. says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Beyond the heinous bigotry of HB2, I’ve been struck by the utter impossibility of effectively enforcing the law.

    How would police (or special bathroom protection forces, if need be) determine who was breaking the law? Wouldn’t they have to be checking people’s privates? Or would people be required to carry their birth certificates and show them when entering a public restroom?

  38. Moosebreath says:

    @J-Dub:

    “I’ve lived in the Northeast my entire life and have never heard a single person say “youse”.”

    Shrug, it’s there

    “yous(e) guys – in the U.S., particularly in New York City region, Philadelphia, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan;”

  39. DrDaveT says:

    @J-Dub:

    I’ve lived in the Northeast my entire life and have never heard a single person say “youse”.

    People who live in Brooklyn and Queens are always surprised to learn that the rest of the Northeast is not very much like Brooklyn or Queens.

  40. Rafer Janders says:

    @Moosebreath:

    “yous(e) guys – in the U.S., particularly in New York City region, Philadelphia, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan;”

    I’m a New Yorker, so I’ve heard “youse” forever, but c’mon, NYC, Philly, northeast Pennsylvania and the UP are not “most of the Northeast.”

  41. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    And even in NY, “youse” is limited to a very specific subset of people by race, ethnicity and neighborhood. It’s not as nearly universal as “y’all” is in the South.

  42. Moosebreath says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    That must be why it says “particularly”. I heard it frequently in Connecticut when I lived there in the 80’s. I’ve heard it in the Albany and Syracuse areas. Not as much in the Boston area.

  43. Gromitt Gunn says:

    While Texas is my adopted home, I spent my first 30 years in the Northeast. Youse seems to have come over as part of specific non-WASP ethnic waves of immigration. I have never heard it in New England outside of the parts of CT that are considered the Tri-State area, but have heard it in NYC and Philly areas.

  44. Matt says:

    @Tony W: Yeah most people want platitudes too. Once you start trying to define what is “reasonable” is when you run into trouble.