FDU Poll: Public Opinion Divided on Transgender Rights


Debates over the rights of transgendered individuals have roiled those in states across the nation. Here in the Garden State, the most recent statewide survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds people are paying close attention to these debates and remain divided over how far society should go to accommodate the rights of the transgendered community.

Three-quarters (72%) report following the news about the issue with 41 percent paying a lot of attention. When asked about bathroom accommodations, however, about equal numbers of Garden Staters say transgendered should use the facilities that match their born identity, as opposed to those that correspond with the sexual identity they are the most comfortable expressing. However, knowing someone who is transgendered increases the likelihood that transgendered choices should be honored in public facilities.

“It’s rare that attentiveness to an issue is so high. Call it the Caitlyn Jenner effect,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and Director of PublicMind. “The opinions expressed today are coming from people who have likely thought about the consequences of the transgendered debate.”

Equal numbers (47%) say the state government and privately owned businesses should allow transgendered individuals to use public bathrooms that are consistent with their chosen identity, rather than require them to use the bathroom that’s consistent with their born sexual identity (44% state government, 41% privately owned businesses).  Fewer support the same treatment in K-12 schools (37%), with over half (52%) supporting the requirement that transgendered use bathrooms that comport with their born sexual identity.

One-in-five (21%) say they know someone who is transgendered, and among them the majority support bathroom accommodations by the state government (65%), privately owned businesses (63%), and K-12 schools (53%).

Support also breaks across party lines, with Democrats far more supportive of bathroom accommodations than Republicans. Two-thirds of Democrats (63%) say the state government should allow a choice compared with a quarter (27%) of Republicans. Sixty-one percent of Democrats say the same about privately owned businesses compared with 28 percent of Republicans. And the split for K-12 schools is 53-19.

Women and Millennials are also among the strongest supporters of transgendered rights. A double digit gender gap separates women from men on questions of bathroom accommodations by the state government (52-41) and in K-12 schools (42-32). Among Millennials, double digits separate them from older residents in regard to bathroom accommodations.

“Having grown up surrounded with sexual diversity as the norm, Millennials are more tolerant and less afraid of transgendered individuals using the bathroom that reflects who they are rather than how they were born,” said Jenkins.

The same survey finds uncertainty in the Garden State over whether to include gay and transgendered rights history in K-12 curriculum. A bill is pending in the legislature that would require boards of education to include in its schools’ curriculum the “political, economic, and social contributions” of people with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Forty-nine percent of respondents are in support of this type of curriculum, with

45 percent opposed.  Majorities of Democrats, women, college educated, non-whites, and Millennials support the idea behind the legislation. So too do those who know someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual, as well as someone who is transgendered.

“Although the legislation has been stalled since it was introduced in 2015, it looks like a sizable number of Garden State residents support inclusivity in social science curriculum,” said Jenkins. “That said, there are plenty who also object to requiring a transgendered and LGBT friendly environment in the state’s schools.”

Methodology – The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind survey was conducted by landline and cellular telephone May 18-22, 2016 among a random statewide sample of 812 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.7 points, including the design effect.

FDU Poll: Public Opinion Divided on Transgender Rights