Transgender issues: GOP says sex is set at birth

November 10, 2017

In a new public opinion poll of 4,573 Americans by the Pew Research Center, Democrats and Republicans have offered sharply different views on transgender rights.

Overall, roughly half of Americans (54%) say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex he or she was assigned at birth; while slightly fewer (44%) say someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the that person was assigned at birth.

The views of the U.S. political parties reflect the ideas of their constituents. While 80% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (64%) take the opposite view and say a person’s gender can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.

The survey also finds that Democrats with a bachelor’s degree or advanced education are more likely than other Democrats to say that a person’s gender can be different from the sex he or she was assigned at birth. About three-quarters (77%) of Democrats with a bachelor’s degree or more say this, compared with 60% of Democrats with some college and 57% of those with a high school diploma or less. No such divide exists among Republicans.

Democrats’ views also differ surprisingly by race and ethnicity. Some 55% of black Democrats and 41% of Hispanic Democrats say a person’s gender is determined by the sex assigned at birth—a view shared by just 24% of white Democrats.

Finally, people who say they personally know someone who is transgender are more likely to say society has not gone far enough in accepting transgender people. About half (52%) of those who know someone who is transgender say this, compared with 31% of those who don’t know a transgender person.

The link between knowing someone who is transgender and saying society should be more accepting of transgender people is evident among Republicans and Democrats alike. Among Republicans, 18% of those who know a transgender person say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, compared with 10% among those who don’t.

The gap is even wider among Democrats: 71% of those who say they know someone who is transgender say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting transgender people,; versus 52% of Democrats who don’t know someone who is transgender.

The survey comes amid debates over which public bathrooms transgender individuals should be permitted to use, how transgender individuals should be described on official documents and whether they should be allowed to serve their country in the U.S. military.

Research contact: info@pewresearch.org