Trans Visibility Matters
The Takeaway: More Americans Know and Accept Transgender People
Results from a new national survey commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, reveal a significant uptick in the number of Americans who say they personally know or work with someone who is transgender. The data, collected for HRC by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, shows that 35 percent of likely voters surveyed reported that they personally know or work with a transgender person. That’s nearly 1.6 times last year’s figure of 22 percent.
Of those who said they personally know a transgender person, a majority knew two or more people who are transgender, and 44 percent knew at least three. 37 percent described the transgender person they knew best as an acquaintance, 33 percent said that person was a friend, and 17 percent said they were a co-worker. 9 percent had a family member who is transgender.
For the first time, HRC also asked whether likely voters knew or worked with transgender youth, finding that 12 percent of those who knew at least one transgender person (equal to 4 percent of all survey participants) had met a transgender youth under the age of 18.
We know from previous polls that knowing a transgender person translates powerfully into positive attitudes. In HRC’s 2015 survey, 66 percent of those who said they know a transgender person expressed favorable feelings toward them, compared with 13 percent who did not -- a net favorability of 53 percentage points. This means that the number of voters motivated to support critical laws and protections for transgender people is growing fast.
Q&A About the Survey
Q: How did you conduct this survey?
A: This was a national survey of 900 2016 likely voters. It was commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research using live professional interviewers between March 17 and 24, 2016. 60 percent of respondents were reached by cell phone. For the full sample, the margin of error was +/-3.27 percentage points at 95% confidence; this margin is greater for subgroups, such as the group of respondents who said they know a transgender person.
Q: How does this result compare to previous years?
A: There has been a steady increase in Americans who report knowing someone who is transgender. In 2013, the Public Religion Research Institute reported that roughly 1-in-10 (9%) Americans reported having a close friend or family member who is transgender. In 2014, when HRC asked survey respondents, “Thinking specifically about transgender people, do you personally know or work with someone who is transgender?” 17 percent said they did. When we asked the same question in 2015, the number was 22 percent. Just over a year later, it has jumped by 13 percentage points to 35 percent.
Q: 35 percent still isn’t a majority. Why is this important?
A: The number of Americans who know someone who is transgender is growing rapidly--and we know that those who do know a transgender person are much more likely to have a positive impression of transgender Americans. This is consistent with our survey research on marriage equality and other LGBTQ issues, which has consistently found that it is important for LGBTQ people to share their personal stories. In 2015, HRC asked likely voters, “Now, I'd like to rate your feelings toward some people, groups and ideas,” and asked them to rate “transgender Americans” as favorable or unfavorable. For those who said they “personally know or work with someone who is transgender,” their favorability for “transgender people” is 66 percent, with 13 percent unfavorable. That’s a net favorability of +53 percentage points. Compare that to those who said they “do not” personally know or work with a transgender person. The rating for those who don’t is 37 favorable, 30 unfavorable, a net of only +7. (The margin of error for this survey subgroup was 6.67 percent).
Q: What’s the biggest takeaway from your data?
A: We knew that 2015 was a year of unprecedented visibility in the media for transgender Americans. Now it appears that this visibility also includes personal relationships. It may be that more transgender Americans finally felt ready to begin a gender transition last year, or that more people who have already transitioned felt comfortable talking with their friends and acquaintances about being transgender. However this visibility has happened, this is important news: we know that personally knowing someone who is transgender makes someone much more likely to view transgender people favorably and support critical laws and protections for transgender people.