Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Poll: Huge Public Support for LGBT Rights

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 09, 2011 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Center for American Progress, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, poll, polling

polling_station.jpgThe 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.


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Allison Sinclair Allison Sinclair | June 9, 2011 10:46 AM

Thus the same results everytime ENDA is brought up we are either kicked under the bus or never make the Senate markup due to Barney Frank and his band of Merry Men dropping this topic for more important issues to benefit his group. I think no matter what the numbers are Barney and his drones will continue to do this.

Reading the tea leaves, could *this* finally be the signal from HRC that they are no longer willing to push us under the bus? I would really like to not have to read tea leaves to come to that conclusion.

Allison Sinclair Allison Sinclair | June 9, 2011 4:02 PM

Joann...I would be very skeptical as far as putting much stock in HRC. We have been sellouts to them in the past and just patsies for contributions.

@Allison, that's why I prefer to not read tea leaves. I previously asked for Joe Solmonese's resignation as a sign of good faith - that would be the kind of sign, especially if it comes with an apology for the 2007 snafu, that I might take as less murky than this small step.

I *do* give HRC credit whenever they do something right, and the improvements in the Equality Index have been noticed, too. Still not quite enough, but they are getting closer.

Jay Kallio | June 9, 2011 4:53 PM

I keep saying, "There are coattails" in political movements, and I believe we trans folk should be supporting LGB rights and thrilled when their efforts meet with success. Every win translates into progress for us. The LGB movement has seen much progress in the past few years, and we will benefit from all their work.

We would also get more specific support from many of them if we could tone down the internecine warfare that makes our T movement so radioactive. Our infighting sends other supporters in the LGB community running for cover, so they don't get spattered with it when it hits the fan.

That said, I am thrilled with these new poll numbers, and appreciate that T people are now being included in the questions. I think these numbers reflect, in large part, how much the general public sees us as all the same, not different. I understand many will resent that, but for winning our anti discrimination rights, I am very happy that we are one large group as far as the public is concerned. Otherwise as a tiny minority we would never be able to mobilize that support by ourselves.

"Every win translates into progress for us." Like in MA and NH? Like with the use of "coattails" to dismiss the participation of trans people in the larger movement in some quarters of the LGB?

The lumping together = progress doesn't actually fit within historical context (when were the laws that allowed trans people to change birth records passed and when did they stop?). It may now be catching up, but we had to take a massive hit in the progress for our needs in the process.

I'm not saying that LGB rights aren't important, and I support them because it is simply the right thing to do. I am, however, tired of the positioning of LG issues over trans issues - particularly since after LG legislation gets passed, the momentum slows and the work to actually "come back" doesn't really happen.

I'm really not sure that the investment required to be a part of the "T" in LGBT is worth it.

Jay Kallio | June 10, 2011 6:28 AM

I've seen the work come back again and again, and if you consider what a miniscule minority we are (at last count we were only .3% of the population) it is incredible how much legislative progress we have made in a short time. I don't see why people seem to expect our rights should keep pace with LG rights, when there are so many more of them than there are of us to push for rights. And in addition to our miniscule numbers (this is a democracy where numbers are the most important factor in winning elections of favorable politicians and passing legislation), so many T folk simply transition and then go stealth, so there has been practically no activist community to call upon to fight for our rights. Considering that so few T folk are actually "out" in public and working or volunteering as activists, it is a downright miracle we have achieved anything at all. Without their movement including us we would have no chance at all.

If you look at it from that kind of realistic perspective it is extraordinary how much progress we have made, and most of it because we have been allied with the greater LGB movement, and we have ridden on their political momentum. As far as I am concerned, they are due a huge vote of thanks from T folks, and our progress is because we are all lumped together in the mind of the public.