The 2016 Republican platform suggests the party is still fairly anti-LGBTQ, opposing same-sex marriage and same-sex parents, and supporting anti-transgender bathroom laws and conversion therapy. But a new survey on Americans’ values and political views, by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), suggests a much more mixed story.
Over the past few months, bathrooms have become a major issue as Republican-controlled states like North Carolina and Texas have led the charge in trying to prohibit trans people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
But the survey found that actual Republicans are evenly divided on this issue, with 44 percent supporting and 44 percent opposing a law that would force trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender assigned at birth instead of their gender identity. Meanwhile, most Americans (53 percent) and most Democrats (64 percent) oppose such laws. So Republicans are still the most likely to support these measures, but it’s not as clear-cut as the official platform suggests.
The bathroom issue originated from the broader debate over nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ people, which would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations (restaurants, hotels, and other places that serve the public).
Republican legislators still remain largely opposed to such laws, in part because they fear the measures would allow all trans people to use the bathroom for their gender identity.
But again, most Republican voters — 62 percent — break from the party stance here by supporting nondiscrimination measures, alongside 78 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of all Americans, PRRI found.
The big hurdle in a nondiscrimination law’s passage may be that most Americans already think such laws exist, based on PRRI’s survey: “Eight in ten (80%) Americans incorrectly believe it is currently illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, while just 14% of Americans know it is currently legal to do so.” It’s hard to push for legislation that a large majority of Americans already believe is in place.
The one issue where a plurality — but not majority — of Republicans continue to hold anti-LGBTQ views is same-sex marriage, which the Supreme Court legalized nationwide in 2015. About 49 percent of Republicans oppose it, compared to 43 percent who support it. Meanwhile, 73 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage.
So Republicans are, overall, more likely to be anti-LGBTQ than the rest of America. But it’s really not as clear-cut as our hyper-partisan political debates might suggest — the party is closely divided on some big issues and supportive of LGBTQ rights on others.