Polls shows overwhelming support for LGBTQ equality

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There is broad support for amending federal civil rights law to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under the Equality Act as well as other state and local laws, according to two new polls.

The Human Rights Campaign released new polling conducted by HRC and Hart Research Associates showing that seven in 10 voters support the Equality Act. The support spans across demographic and partisan groups.

On March 23, PRRI released a significantly broader and larger poll via the 2020 American Values Atlas. PRRI surveyed more than 10,000 adults in the U.S. from January 2020 to December 2020.

PRRI polling showed more than three in four Americans (76%) favor all laws, local and statewide, not just the Equality Act, that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodation. According to PRRI, fewer than one in five Americans (19%) oppose nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans.

PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) is an American nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization that conducts public opinion polls on a variety of different topics, specializing in the quantitative and qualitative study of political issues as they relate to religious values.

Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said, “In poll after poll, we see that Americans overwhelmingly believe that LGBTQ people should be able to live free from fear of harassment and discrimination by guaranteeing the same federal anti-discrimination protections that other Americans have enjoyed for decades.”

PRRI research director Natalie Jackson said in a statement, “The data is clear: the vast majority of Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections no matter where they live, the party they belong to, or the church they belong to.”

What is significant and most surprising in the PRRI poll are its findings that majorities of nearly every subgroup of Americans favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections, across race, age, religious and political partisan lines. PRRI also detailed the rise in support over the past five years of polling. Those comparisons also show how wide the growth has been among certain groups, notably people of color and those in Protestant religious denominations.

The present level of support is higher than any PRRI has recorded in previous years, and is a significant increase from 2019, when the Equality Act was first voted on. At that time, 72% of Americans favored nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans. Prior to 2019, support for nondiscrimination protections hovered around seven in ten Americans: 69% in 2018, 70% in 2017, 72% in 2016 and 71% in 2015.

PRRI found that majorities of all partisan groups favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections, but Democrats (85%) and independents (79%) are more likely than Republicans (62%) to favor protections.

The HRC poll found that the key individual components of the Equality Act are extremely popular. The majority of voters (84%) support expanding protections for women, racial minorities and religious minorities where protections do not currently exist.

HRC also asserted that the overall findings of their polling were such

that “There is a clear political upside for members of Congress who support the Equality Act: overall, 53% of voters say they would feel more favorable toward their member of Congress if they were to vote in favor of the legislation.”

Those polled by HRC also support prohibiting discrimination against children and parents of LGBTQ people (82%) and people who are incorrectly perceived to be LGBTQ (79%), as well as preventing businesses from refusing service to LGBTQ people due to religious objections (70%).

The HRC polling showed Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of the rights of and protections for transgender people, specifically. Congressional Republicans have used religious objections and transphobic arguments in the debates held thus far in the House and Senate on the Equality Act.

One issue Republicans have fixated on is trans girls and women in sports as harmful to cis girls and cis women. But the HRC polling found the overwhelming majority of voters (73%) think that “sports are important to young people’s lives and that young trans people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”

Another key finding in the HRC polling is that the majority of voters do not realize that LGBTQ people are not currently protected from discrimination under federal law: 57% of voters believe that LGBTQ people are already totally (20%) or somewhat (37%) protected from discrimination.

This misperception may account for some of the PRRI polling, which found support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections among Democrats remained relatively steady in 2015 (78%), 2017 (79%), and 2018 (79%), before rising slightly in 2019 (81%) and 2020 (85%). Support among independents was also relatively steady: Around seven in ten favored protections in 2015 (73%), 2017 (72%), 2018 (70%), and 2019 (72%), and increased to 78% in 2020. Republican support declined slightly, from 61% in 2015 to 58% in 2017 and 56% in 2018, before climbing back to 61% in 2019 and 62% in 2020.

The increase in support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections since 2015 has largely come among Americans of color and white mainline Protestants. White mainline Protestants and Black Americans have grown a staggering 10 percentage points more likely to favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans from 2015 to 2020.

Broad majorities in nearly every religious group favor protections for LGBTQ people, with the largest among white Catholics (77%), Mormons (78%), Jews (79%), Latinx Catholics (81%), white mainline Protestants (82%) and the religiously unaffiliated (82%).

White evangelical Protestants, the group least likely to favor nondiscrimination laws, endorsed them by nearly 2 to 1 (62% to 32 %).

PRRI also charted the receptivity in different age groups. Unsurprisingly, Americans ages 18 to 29 (83%) and ages 30 to 49 (81%) are more likely than those ages 50 to 64 (72%) or over age 65 (65%) to favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections. These numbers paralleled those of HRC, but were somewhat higher, likely due to the broader base of those polled.

PRRI found that the gap between Americans ages 18 to 29 and those ages 30 to 49 has steadily closed over the past several years with regard to acceptance of LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

PRRI also found that now majorities of every racial and ethnic group favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans. Multiracial Americans (81%) and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (AAPI) (79%) are most likely to favor nondiscrimination protections, followed closely by Latinx Americans (77%), white Americans (76%), Black Americans (75%) and, more distantly, Native Americans (64%).

The partisan gap is largest among white Americans: 61% of white Republicans, 80% of white independents, and 88% of white Democrats favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections. The gap is smaller among Latinx Americans: 69% of Latinx Republicans, 77% of Latinx independents, and 83% of Latinx Democrats favor these protections.

PRRI found that across racial and ethnic groups, women are slightly more likely than men to favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections. Support is highest among multiracial women (86%), while eight in ten white (80%), Latina (80%), and Black women (80%) favor protections for LGBT people. Around three-quarters of multiracial men (76%), AAPI men (75%), and Latinx men (74%), and around seven in ten white men (72%) and Black men (69%), say the same.

HRC explains that “Despite significant steps forward, the patchwork nature of our nation’s civil rights laws means that the majority of states — 29 states in total — do not have laws explicitly protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.”

HRC asserts that “The Equality Act would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under federal civil rights law. If passed, the landmark legislation would also extend protections to millions of women — women who aren’t covered by some existing federal anti-discrimination laws — and modernize public accommodations law to provide increased protections to people of color and people of faith.”

HRC president Alphonso David said, “The Equality Act is supported by a bipartisan majority of voters, the business community, faith and civil rights leaders, and communities in virtually every corner of the nation. It’s time for the Senate to catch up to the American public and finally pass the Equality Act so that all Americans can be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”