Red State Voters Back Anti-Trans Laws. Legislators Deliver 2023

Utah was formerly a red state outlier. In 2021, a Utah state Senate committee rejected a ban on transgender girls playing sports. Utah lawmakers heard from proponents on both sides of transgender student sports participation legislation for months.

Republican legislators revoked the arrangement and excluded trans students from feminine sports.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Utah has approved at least six new transgender-targeted laws this year, more than any other state. They prohibit gender-affirming care for children, make birth certificate changes tougher, and make school sports harder for transgender athletes.

Utah is one of at least 14 states that has passed new laws this year restricting transgender people, particularly trans kids, as well as their parents and health care providers, including sports bans, gender-affirming care bans, and bathroom laws.

Trans concerns have dominated statehouses, but do voters support these bills? Does passing these laws risk GOP backlash?

This legislation has divided opinions nationwide. Polls demonstrate that restricting minors from getting transition-related health care is marginally unpopular. In a March Marist/NPR/PBS NewsHour poll, 43% of Americans supported such legislation, while 54% opposed it.

In March, Selzer & Co./Grinnell College reported a similar outcome, with voters opposing legislation to “ban transgender children from receiving gender-affirming medical care” by 12 points (41% in favor, 53% opposed).1

But Americans favor other anti-trans measures approved in various states. Similar to past studies, a March YouGov/Yahoo News poll revealed that Americans supported “banning transgender female athletes from playing on women’s and girls’ teams at public schools” by a margin of 21 points (52% in favor, 31% opposed).

In an April YouGov/Economist survey, 60 percent of Americans favored “requiring K-12 schools to inform parents if their child requests to go by different pronouns while at school,” including majorities of Democrats (50 percent), Republicans (77 percent), and independents (56%).

Utah voters and politicians appear to agree. A January Dan Jones & Associates study for the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics indicated 54 percent of registered Utah voters supported the new legislation banning gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children, with 41 percent opposing it.

In a February 2022 Scott Rasmussen/Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey, 39 percent of Utahns opposed transgender women playing on women’s high school and college sports teams, but only 5 percent said government officials “should determine which athletes may compete” (41 percent said school athletic associations, 18 percent said medical experts, and 36 percent said it should b

Utahns aren’t the only ones who favor laws restricting transgender kids’ access to health care, sports, and other opportunities. According to a May 2021 Hendrix College/Talk Business & Politics survey, Arkansas voters backed the first U.S. legislation limiting gender-affirming care for transgender youngsters by 15 points. Arkansas enacted a measure this year that would expose gender-affirming clinicians to malpractice charges, even while the SAFE Act is on hold due to litigation.

In February, 65 percent of likely Arkansas voters opposed “the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation topics in Arkansas’s public elementary schools,” while a bill that has since become law was moving through the state legislature.

In Georgia and Iowa, which restricted gender-affirming care for kids this year, voters approve restrictions by single-digit margins. An April 2022 Morningside University study of Iowans backed a bill restricting school restroom use by 24%.2 States that have considered gender-affirming child healthcare measures but have not approved them continue this pattern.

Texas and Ohio surveys approve limiting transition-related healthcare for minors. Since January 2021, the public has supported banning transgender females from playing women’s sports by 30 points or more in all but one state-level survey.

Transgender rights activists, especially in key presidential election states, have some good news.

According to a December 2022 Public Policy Polling/Progress Michigan survey, 51 percent of Michiganders supported adding sexuality and gender identity to the state civil rights statute. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin citizens oppose policies that “restrict” transgender rights.

In March, Data for Progress reported that 64 percent of likely voters nationwide said that state lawmakers were passing too much anti-trans legislation and that “politicians are playing political theater and using these bills as a wedge issue.”

While Republicans in red states are unlikely to face backlash for their anti-trans legislation this year, polling in swing states could be a warning sign for the GOP ahead of the 2024 election, especially since state and national polling shows the U.S. is far from a consensus on trans issues.

As with most polls on divisive subjects, even little changes in question-wording or the sort of trans law being questioned about can change results.3 Even little shifts in public perception may affect politics and elections.

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