The Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, has conducted a new poll showing that the American public strongly supports workplace nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. Adam discussed this yesterday, noting that 9 of 10 people think there's already a federal law barring LGBT discrimination.
One of the consistent points made by opposing politicians is that the majority of people in the U.S. do not support such rights. That's not true, and we've known that for quite some time. We've covered a lot of these polls here on Bilerico, and the progress made is interesting. Of course, not every legislative district has a majority in support, and therein lies the rub in our legislative system. Enough districts without support, and the raw numbers quickly become irrelevant to a vote. However, there are some interesting crosstabs in the polling data, particularly with regard to trans rights, and regional breakdowns. These results are also surprising for another reason: they don't agree with past polling data in one important respect.
As noted in the CAP press release: "Since at least the early 1980s, a majority of Americans have supported equal rights and opportunities for gay people in the workplace. Polling questions about transgender workers have only been asked recently. But the CAP poll shows that voters support transgender protections at almost the same rate they support gay protections."
Here's some previous polling data we've discussed, and the CAP poll is in the general ballpark, but with a surprising twist. See if you can discover what it is.
2002 Gay rights: 78% Trans rights: 61%
2004 Gay rights: 74% (LA Times) to 78% (HRC) or Trans rights: 61% (HRC)
2005 Gay rights: Trans rights: 66%
2008 Gay rights: 89% (Gallup) Trans rights: 71% (HRC)
In May of this year, HRC came out with polling, focusing specifically on levels of support in religious communities, but showing that overall 70% favored non-discrimination law for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. That poll did not distinguish between LGB and trans protections.
To my mind, this last HRC poll is a notable distinction, since it gives up the substantial lead that LGB-only protections appear to have. Since the Gallup poll in 2008 showed that 89% of the public supports gay employment rights, but the latest polling before that showed 71% support for trans rights, it would be in the interest of a gay-advocacy group to show the higher number for gay-only rights, and put the trans rights number as a footnote. To include trans rights in all the numbers lowers the overall support level. Why would HRC do that? Perhaps it is because they are realizing that separating the two numbers encourages throwing trans people under the bus, and they have decided to stop doing that? I don't know, but I like that idea. (Feel free to disabuse me of this notion in the comments, but then you have to explain why they didn't segregate the communities in their 2011 poll.)
However, if the CAP poll is correct, then then 89% number, given by Gallup as support for LGB-only rights in 2008, is incorrect. Remember what CAP said in its press release?
"Seventy-five percent of likely voters say they favor 'protecting gay and lesbian people from discrimination in employment,' while 73 percent say they favor these protections for 'gay, lesbian, and transgender people.' The responses are essentially identical."
They weren't identical in 2008, according to the Gallup and HRC polls. In those polls, the gap was 18%. According to CAP, the gap is 2%. Why is that?
It could be changes in voter sentiment, a different sample polled, different types of questions used, a different method of asking the questions. It could be many things. But this is a significant difference from prior polling.
There's more to this poll, specifically with regard to the trans population, and I have a breakdown of results by region that is very interesting. More on this tomorrow.