This report presents information on public opinion about transgender people and their rights in the United States of America. We analyzed data from The Global Attitudes Toward Transgender People survey, U.S. panel, to provide information on views toward transgender people, their rights, and their status in society. This report:
- describes attitudes toward transgender people and their rights and status in society,
- investigates associations between individual-level participant characteristics and public opinion, and,
- fills gaps in the current literature on public opinion regarding transgender people in the United States.
Until recently, surveys about transgender people and their rights were rare.However, since 2015, several studies have assessed the American public’s opinion about transgender people and their rights. Studies suggest that a majority of the American public supports the enactment of non-discrimination protections, adoption rights, and open military service for transgender people. The public is more divided on questions about access to public restrooms based on an individual’s gender identity. Factors such as familiarity with transgender people, as well as individuals’ sex and age, have been associated with support for transgender rights. However, the existing literature on public attitudes regarding transgender people and their rights is thin and understanding the extent to which misperceptions about transgender people are held by various population groups can inform efforts to address prejudice towards transgender people.
Federal statutes in the United States of America do not expressly protect people from gender identity-based discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations, and other realms.Transgender people do have the right to marry individuals in the United States, regardless of their current gender identity or birth sex, and courts are considering the constitutionality of recent policies restricting the ability of transgender people to serve in the military. However, the United States’ federal system of governance decentralizes policy-making, enabling a patchwork of policies and laws among federal, state, and municipal governments. With regard to many of the issues examined in this report, laws differ across jurisdictions. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia, for example, have state-wide statutes that explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment and housing based on gender identity, and 20 states and the District of Columbia have statutes that explicitly prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on gender identity. In three other states, human rights commissions have interpreted existing sex nondiscrimination statutes to also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in one or more areas. At the time of this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an employment discrimination case about whether existing nondiscrimination protections based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be interpreted to include gender identity. In addition, members of Congress have introduced the Equality Act of 2019, which would amend many existing federal non-discrimination statutes to include gender identity. In addition to policies regarding discrimination, states also have jurisdiction over other policies that impact transgender people, such as their right to adopt children and processes for gender recognition on government-issued identity documents and records such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates which impact many aspects of transgender people’s lives, such as voting.
This report analyzed data gathered for the 2017 Global Attitudes Toward Transgender People survey about participants’ familiarity with transgender people,as well as attitudes toward transgender people, their rights, and their status in society from an online panel assembled by Ipsos. The U.S. sample included panelists ages 18 to 64 who could complete a survey in English (see Appendix II for methodological details). Data from the U.S. panel were weighted to reflect the U.S. population ages 18 to 64.
The analytic sample included 1,000 participants. Below we presented weighted percentages and 95% confidence intervals to describe participants’ demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, familiarity with transgender people, and attitudes toward transgender people and related public policies. We conducted weighted multinomial logistic regression analyses to determine whether individual-level characteristics, such as sex, age, education, income, and familiarity with transgender people, were associated with dependent variables, such as attitudes toward transgender people, their rights, and their status in society. These analyses excluded individuals (n=37) who identified as transgender because the group was too small to generate reliable estimates for transgender participants.We presented additional information regarding regression analyses in Appendix I.
In our analyses, we used Stata 14 and 15. Ipsos provided survey weights which allowed results to
be adjusted to be representative of individuals in the United States ages 18 to 64. The UCLA North General Institutional Review Board (NGIRB) deemed this study exempt from review as human subjects research due to the use of de-identified data. We included further methodological details in Appendix II, Ipsos Methodology Addendum for Single Country Briefs.