From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:
What ‘Uproar’ Over Repealing the Obama Transgender Bathroom Directive?
That other morning newsletter offered by Politico writes . . .
Trump caused an uproar over his decision to withdraw protections for transgender students. . . . As Republicans across the country continue to face screaming constituents at town halls, Trump’s focus on transgender bathrooms doesn’t give them anything to say to people worried about losing their health care.
Did you hear the “uproar”? I must have had my earphones in at that moment.
Er, what presidential “focus” on the issue? It was one repeal of one directive from the Obama administration contending that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice — a directive that is being challenged in court. The U.S. Supreme Court already blocked a lower court order that would have required a school to let students use the bathroom they prefer. In November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
From the media coverage, you could easily get the idea that there is a broad public support for allowing self-identified transgender students use the bathroom they prefer. The polling on this issue is a little contradictory, but it doesn’t support the Politico narrative at all. No doubt there are those who are in an “uproar” about the issue, but they’re likely to be concentrated in states and House districts that have already elected Democrats.
Let’s start with the CBS News/New York Times poll in May of last year:
While less than a majority, 46 percent of Americans say they think that transgender people should be allowed to use only public restrooms corresponding to their gender at birth. A smaller number, 41 percent, think transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom that matches the gender they identify with.
Question wording matters a lot. That month CNN asked, “Overall, would you say you favor or oppose laws that require transgender individuals to use facilities that correspond to their gender at birth rather than their gender identity? Do you [favor/oppose] that strongly or somewhat?” and found 57 percent saying they opposed them, 38 percent supported them.
A week later, Gallup asked, “In terms of policies governing public restrooms, do you think these policies should – [ROTATED: require transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their birth gender (or should these policies) allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity]?”
Gallup reported, “The results from this question wording were the opposite of the CNN responses. We found 50 percent opted for the first option that requires transgender individuals to use a restroom corresponding with their birth gender, while 40 percent chose the latter option, allowing them to use a bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.”
Then Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research conducted a survey in July:
When asked the question about whether the government should force organizations to open bathrooms and other facilities to people of the opposite gender, 66 percent of adults disapprove, with over half of adults showing very strong disapproval.
Their wording: “Do you approve or disapprove of government forcing schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations to open the showers, changing facilities, locker rooms, and bathrooms designated for women and girls, to biological males and vice versa? And, would you say you STRONGLY approve/disapprove, or just SOMEWHAT?”
Then in October, the Pew Research Center asked about the issue:
About half of U.S. adults (51%) say transgender individuals should be allowed to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender they currently identify with, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But nearly as many (46%) take the opposite position – on the side of the North Carolina law – and say transgender people should be required to use bathrooms that match the gender they were born into.
If you oppose the North Carolina law and believe everyone should use the bathroom they feel is most appropriate for themselves, you’d like to think the CNN and Pew polls are more accurate. If you believe anybody with an outie should be using the bathroom with a urinal, no matter how they “self-identify,” you’d like to think the CBS News/New York Times poll, the WPA poll, and the Gallup polls are more accurate.
Or the public’s view may be a little more nuanced than these question phrasing permits; judging from the WPA response, a lot of people who might be comfortable with transgender individuals using their preferred bathroom really don’t like the idea when the words “government forcing” are used. Then again, that’s precisely what the Obama administration directive did; the directive declared that any school that refused to permit a student to use his or her preferred bathroom represented a violation of Title IX, and the school could no longer be eligible for federal funds.
Neither side should be convinced that they have an overwhelming majority of the public on their side. But if you drew a Venn diagram, depicting people who support the Obama administration’s directive and people who voted for Trump, the two circles would barely overlap at all.
Also worth noting: Six-tenths of one percent of American adults identify as transgender.