In headlines and statehouses, young transgender athletes appear to be a hot-button issue. But a new poll released Wednesday suggests that the nation is far less divided than state politicians.
On Wednesday, Hart Research Associates and LGBTQ+ organization the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a new report that finds that 73 percent of people believe that trans kids should be allowed to play on the team on which they feel comfortable, including 56 percent of Republicans. The poll also found that 70 percent of the country supports the Equality Act, the watershed nondiscrimination protections bill for LGBTQ+ people that is heading to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The country truly is landing on a place and on the side of equality and opportunity,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs at HRC. “We continue to see a strength in these numbers, even while there are significant attacks on our community and particularly on transgender youth across the country.”
Wednesday’s poll found that while many initially did express hesitancy about transgender participation in sports, more information quickly shifted their reactions, researchers said. When first asked, just 38 percent said they supported allowing kids to play on sports teams consistent with their gender identities and 28 percent were undecided.
“The picture changes substantially with just a small amount of additional information: respondents read that ‘local schools, state athletic associations, and the NCAA have already implemented policies that ensure a level playing field for all students while also protecting transgender youth,’” the report states.
After reading that information, nearly three quarters said they supported allowing trans kids to play on teams where they felt safe and comfortable. Geoff Wetrosky, national campaigns director for HRC, believes that a little education can have significant impacts on.
“It is a relatively new argument, the latest in a long line of attacks from our opposition,” Wetrosky said. “You really need to have a two pronged argument that appeals to a person’s head and their heart.”
The poll — conducted among 1,005 voters across the country from March 12-15 — shows that Republican voters were split exactly 50-50 on support for the bill. Overall, 53 percent of voters said they would have a more favorable view of their congressperson for voting in favor of the bill.
Black voters were far more likely to support the pro-LGBTQ+ legislation than any other group at 88 percent. Seventy-six percent of Latinx voters backed the measure. White voters were least likely at just 67 percent. The report did not disaggregate data for other racial groups.
The poll strikes at the heart of the two biggest LGBTQ+ issues facing state governments and Congress.
The HRC has reported that more than 80 anti-transgender bills are pending in state legislatures, the vast majority aimed at preventing transgender girls from playing on school sports teams and barring medical providers from treating trans kids for gender dysphoria with reversible puberty blockers.
On March 11, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed his state’s anti-transgender sports bill into law. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has also signed an anti-LGBTQ+ Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and is weighing signing a trans youth athletics sports ban that passed in the statehouse earlier this month.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to consider the Equality Act, which would bar anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in housing, public accommodations, education, employment, credit, jury service and other areas of life. But though moderate Republicans seem torn on whether the bill offers enough protections for people of faith, the bill’s proponents are expected to focus on its potential to advance the rights of transgender people. The poll, however, suggests the majority of American voters are not grappling with those same issues.
“This is not legislation whose time has come; this is legislation whose time is well past due,” Wetrosky said.