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A new poll finds that, despite differences of opinion on transgender participation in sports, most Americans don’t support efforts to bar transgender student-athletes from competing in their gender identity.
The poll, conducted by The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion along with NPR and PBS NewsHour, finds that — despite their prioritization by Republican lawmakers in nearly 30 states — even rank-and-file Republicans don’t think state lawmakers should be prioritizing bills targeting transgender athletes.
The poll surveyed more than 1,266 adults from April 7-13, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
According to the poll, only 28% of Americans support bills restricting transgender athletes to competing on sports teams based on their assigned sex at birth. By comparison, 67% of Americans oppose such legislation.
There isn’t a huge partisan divide when it comes to prioritizing trans athlete bans, particularly at a time when there are other more pressing issues, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only 29% of Republicans support pushing trans athlete bans, with 28% of independents and 25% of Democrats holding similar views, although NPR notes that the margin of error can be larger when individual partisan groups are measured separately.
The overwhelming opposition to prioritizing transgender athlete bans at the state level comes as several states have either passed or appear poised to pass bans prohibiting transgender females, in particular, from competing in women’s sports.
Governors in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas have already signed bans into effect, and states like West Virginia, Florida, Alabama, North Dakota, Montana, and Oklahoma appear poised to follow suit.
The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll also finds there is a nuance when it comes to the issue of transgender participation in sports.
While most Republicans oppose state lawmakers taking the issue into their own hands, 81% of Republicans said transgender students, whether at the elementary, secondary or collegiate level, should not be allowed to play on teams matching their gender identity.
By comparison, 75% of Democrats feel that transgender students should be allowed to play on sports teams matching their gender identity.
Independents were split on the question, as are Americans overall. Forty-seven percent of Americans support allowing transgender participation in sports based on gender identity, and 48% of Americans oppose such an idea.
“There was a reluctance on the part of many people to move in the direction of imposing a ban on gender rights that has been suggested in many states,” Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told NPR. “There clearly is a sense that a lot of people don’t want to legislate this at the state level. They do not want to move in a direction of formally discriminating in these regards.”
The poll also tried to gauge support for other LGBTQ issues, including the Equality Act, a sweeping piece of civil rights legislation that would prohibit various forms of discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Overall, 63% of American adults support the Equality Act, with 90% of Democrats and 62% of independents supporting the legislation. By comparison, only 32% of Republicans support the bill.
The poll also found strong opposition to bills that bar transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming health care such as puberty blockers or hormones.
Recently, Arkansas became the first state to ban such treatments, imposing criminal penalties on affirming medical providers, threatening them with disciplinary action that could lead to the loss of their licenses, and allowing them to be sued by former patients who received treatment for up to 20 years.
That bill also bars public dollars from being used to reimburse treatments that facilitate a gender transition, and allows insurers to refuse to cover any transition-related care for transgender adults as well as transgender youth.
According to the poll, 65% of American adults oppose bills barring gender-affirming care, compared to 28% who support such a measure.
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