An increasingly large majority of Americans support laws requiring people to use the bathroom and be on sports teams corresponding to their sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity, a new survey reveals.
The poll conducted by the D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute also found a solid majority of Americans either believe or very strongly believe there are only two genders.
A total of 59% of Americans believe there are only two genders, the PRRI survey revealed, with 42% saying they “strongly believe” there are only males and females and another 17% agreeing but not saying they “feel strongly” about it.
Natalie Jackson, PRRI’s research director, said in a telephone interview that while “vast majorities of Americans, regardless of party, regardless of religion” support laws against discrimination, that does not apply to bathroom bills.
“But then when we get to these transgender-specific issues, the support falls off. I think a large part of that is coming from the current environment where we’ve seen a lot of legislative activity about these issues. We’ve seen a lot of bills introduced regarding high school sports participation and a little bit involving bathrooms again,” she added.
On the contentious issues of so-called “bathroom bills” and whether transgender students “who were assigned male at birth” should participate in girls’ athletics, there remain significant divisions, the PRRI survey revealed.
According to the survey, 61% of Americans oppose allowing transgender girls and women to compete alongside cisgender girls and women.
That’s up from 2018, when only 50% opposed such competition.
A similar decline was seen in support for transgender boys competing alongside cisgender boys: 52% oppose or strongly oppose such competitions, versus 61% who said “yes” in a 2018 PRRI survey. Democrats, at 68%, are more than three times as likely as Republicans, at 19%, to support transgender boys and men competing against cisgender boys and men.
Religious breakdowns of survey respondents show majority support for transgender athletes competing with those born of that sex only among the religiously unaffiliated, those in “other” non-Christian religions, and among Hispanic Catholics.
Among the unaffiliated, 52% support transgender girls and women and 60% support transgender boys and men in athletic competition. Those in other non-Christian faiths indicated 51% support for transgender girls and women and 68% for transgender boys and men. Hispanic Catholics favored transgender girls and women in athletic competition by 57% and registered 64% support for transgender boys and men in competition.
The survey found significant shifts in support for so-called “bathroom bills” which require individuals to use restrooms matching their assigned sex at birth.
Republicans support such measures by 74%, up from 44% in 2016. Independents back such measures by 48% today versus 37% five years ago. Among Democrats, there also has been an increase in support since 2016, albeit only 4 percentage points — 31% now as opposed to 27% then.
White evangelical Protestants, White mainline Protestants, and White Catholics all registered increased support for legislation requiring transgender individuals to use facilities matching their sex assigned at birth than they did five years ago.
For White evangelicals, the gain was 31 points, from 41% in 2016 to 72% now. Among White mainline Protestants, support for “bathroom bills” jumped from 34% in 2016 to 55% today, while White Catholic support grew from 35% to 50%.
Black Protestant support for such legislation rose from 28% in 2016 to 48% today.
Other matters broke down along more partisan lines.
Three times as many Democrats, 48%, say discrimination against LGBTQ people has risen during the past 12 months, three times the number of Republicans, the survey found.
PRRI said White evangelical Christians are “less likely than any other religious group” to report a rise in discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, with only 16% agreeing.
Nearly half of Black Protestants (49%), along with 44% of Hispanic Americans, say LGBTQ discrimination has risen.
The survey also considered the question of whether business owners should be legally able to refuse to provide services to people “if doing so violates their religious beliefs” on sexual orientation.
Those opposed or “strongly opposed” to allowing a business to opt-out fell from 76% in January 2021 to 63% in the more recent survey.
Support for such businesses doubled from 8% who “strongly favor” such moves in January to 16% now. Those who merely “favor” such a right for business owners went from 14% in January to 20% in the latest survey.
PRRI conducted the survey online from Aug. 9 to 30, using a representative sample of 5,415 adults age 18 and over residing in all 50 states.
Virtually all participants were either members of research firm Ipsos’ “KnowledgePanel,” or were recruited by Ipsos for the survey.
The group said it would post the survey results, methodology information and other data at their website, http://www.prri.org.