Story at a glance
- More Americans than ever say they support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, according to a new poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute.
- Still, 20 percent of Americans say they oppose these laws, including 7 percent who say they are strongly opposed to them.
- Support for marriage equality has also continued to increase, as has opposition for religious exemption laws.
More Americans than ever say they support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, new research shows, even as legislation seeking to curb LGBTQ+ rights — particularly transgender rights — is being considered in state legislatures across the country.
Support for nondiscrimination protections is the highest it has ever been — overall and across state, religious and political party affiliation — according to a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).
Roughly 80 percent of Americans say they favored laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing. Around 41 percent of Americans say they strongly support nondiscrimination protections.
Still, 20 percent of Americans say they oppose these laws, including 7 percent who say they are strongly opposed to them.
More than 80 percent of Democrats and independents and nearly two-thirds of Republicans favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, according to the poll, and support from the “vast majorities” of most major religious groups has surged since 2015, when PRRI first began collecting data on attitudes toward LGBTQ+ rights.
Support for nondiscrimination protections increases with education, according to the poll, and Americans with postgraduate degrees are more likely to favor laws protecting LGBTQ+ people than Americans with four-year college degrees, some college experience or with a high school diploma or less.
While the PRRI survey did not find large differences in support by geographic region, adults living in the South are “notably” less likely to support nondiscrimination laws than those living in the Northeast, Midwest or West. Still, support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people has increased in each region, including the South, since 2015.
Support for these laws also vary state by state and has increased by 11 percentage points or more since 2015 in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Hawaii, Washington and Nevada. Each of these states already have laws in place which expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Even in states with the lowest support — Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama and West Virginia — roughly two-thirds or more support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. But, at present, none of those states have any such laws in place.
Notably, Arkansas last year became the first state in the U.S. to sign into law a ban on all gender-affirming care for transgender or nonbinary youth under the age of 18, though a federal judge over the summer issued a decision blocking its enforcement. An Alabama bill would make providing gender-affirming care a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
In addition to support for nondiscrimination laws, support for marriage equality has skyrocketed since 2015, increasing 14 percentage points nationwide, according to the PRRI poll. Republicans are virtually “evenly divided” over same-sex marriage, with 48 percent supporting it and 54 percent opposing it, while a large majority of Democrats and independents favor marriage equality.
Most major religious groups also support marriage equality, according to PRRI, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants and Latter-day Saints.
Only four states — Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina — have less than majority support for same-sex marriage.
According to PRRI, roughly two-thirds of Americans oppose allowing small businesses to refuse to provide goods or services to gay or lesbian people because it would violate their religious beliefs. That’s up 7 percentage points over 2015, when 59 percent of Americans said they opposed religious exemption laws.
Nearly 90 percent of Democrats and two-thirds of independents oppose religious refusal laws, compared with just 44 percent of Republicans. Only one state — West Virginia — has less than a majority of residents who oppose religious refusals to serve gay and lesbian people.
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA