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News Release | Strong Majorities Favor Rights & Legal Protections for Transgender People

[11.03.2011]

Americans have Solid Understanding of Transgender Identity

Washington, D.C. – Overwhelming majorities of Americans, across the political and religious spectrum, believe that transgender people should have the same general rights and legal protections as other people, a new survey finds.

The August and September Religion and Politics Tracking Surveys were conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and released amid the increased attention towards transgender issues following Chaz Bono’s appearance on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. The combined surveys constitute one of the first independent studies of attitudes on transgender issues and Americans’ knowledge of transgender identity.

“Three out of four Americans say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws that protect transgender people,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “This strong support is also broad, persisting across party lines and the religious spectrum.”

Approximately three-quarters (74%) of Americans also favor Congress’ recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people. Additionally, the survey found that roughly two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term “transgender” means, the new survey finds.

“To explore whether Americans know what the term ‘transgender’ means, we allowed them to define ‘transgender’ in their own words,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. “More than two-thirds of Americans were able to give an essentially accurate definition of the term ‘transgender’ without any assistance.”

Among the Findings:

Overwhelming majorities of Americans agree that transgender people should have the same general rights and legal protections as others.

  • Approximately 9-in-10 (89%) Americans—including strong majorities of all religious and partisan groups—agree that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.

Approximately three-quarters of Americans both say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people, and favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.

  • Three-quarters (75%) of Americans agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination. This support persists across the political and religious spectrum.
  • Approximately three-quarters (74%) of Americans also favor Congress’ recent expansion of federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, compared to only 22% who oppose.

Approximately two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term “transgender” means.

  • Two-thirds of Americans agree that they feel well informed about transgender persons and issues, while 3-in-10 disagree.
  • In order to determine whether Americans understood the term “transgender,” PRRI conducted a follow-up survey in September 2011 that asked respondents to report what the term “transgender” meant to them in their own words. Among the 91% of Americans who report that they have heard of the term transgender, 76% give an essentially accurate definition. Thus, overall, more than two-thirds (69%) of Americans are able to identify what the term “transgender” means without any assistance.

Read the Topline Questionnaire including the survey methodology here.

Both the August and the September Religion and Politics Tracking Surveys were designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the August survey were based on random digit dial telephone survey of 1,006 adults conducted between August 11, 2011 and August 14, 2011. Results of the September survey were based on random digit dial telephone survey of 1,013 adults (301 were reached by cell phone) conducted between September 14, 2011 and September 18, 2011. The margin of error for both surveys is +/- 3.0 percentage points.

Public Religion Research Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and education organization dedicated to work at the intersection of religion, values and public life.
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