While not entirely surprising given the candidacy of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the poll marked another historic milestone in presidential politics and polling. The Reuters/Ispos poll was the first to ask Americans about their support for a transgender presidential candidate.
The poll revealed a surprising amount of support. Over half of all respondents (57%) said that the fact that a presidential candidate was transgender would either not matter to them (46%) or would make them more likely to support a candidate (11%). Only 1 in 4 (26%) said they would be “much less likely” to vote for a transgender candidate.
And for the record books—for the first time, Americans were also asked about their support for a gender non-binary presidential candidate. The results were similar: 58% said that they would either be more likely to support such a candidate (10%) or that identity would not matter to their vote (48%).
Historically, this is a much better showing than other minority presidential candidates received when Americans were first asked about supporting them. In response to a 1937 Gallup poll, only 33% of respondents said they would vote for a female candidate and only 46% for a Jewish candidate. Public willingness to vote for a Black president was at 37% in 1958, when Gallup first included the question on a national survey. In 1978, only 26% of respondents said they would vote for a “homosexual” candidate for president when that question was first asked.
It’s not all positive news for potential transgender candidates, however. A transgender presidential candidate fared less well than most other groups that were asked about on the Reuters/Ipsos poll. Over 80% of respondents said that whether a presidential candidate was Black or Latino would either not matter to them or make them more likely to vote for a candidate, and approximately two-thirds had similar support for a gay or lesbian candidate.
Transgender and gender non-binary candidates, however, did poll better than one group of candidates—those over the age of 70. Only 52% of respondents said that a candidate being over the age of 70 would not matter (42%) or make them more likely to vote for a candidate (10%). On Inauguration Day 2020, President Trump and candidates Sanders, Biden, Weld, and Warren will be 70 years or older.
The level of support for a transgender president varied greatly by political party, familiarity with the LGBT community, and other demographic characteristics which shape public opinion about transgender people and issues. For example, 70% of registered Democrats said they would be more likely to vote for a transgender candidate or that a candidate’s gender identity wouldn’t matter—compared to 60% of registered Independents and only 32% of registered Republicans. Put differently, three times as many registered Republicans (45%) said they would be “much less likely” to vote for a transgender presidential candidate than registered Democrats (15%).
Almost 9 in 10 of LGBT Americans expressed support for a transgender presidential candidate (89%) as did 65% of those who said they had LGBT friends and family members. Of those who said they didn’t know anyone who was LGBT, only 41% expressed support. Consistent with other research, People of Color, women, and millennials were also more likely to express support for a transgender presidential candidate.