Explaining public opinion toward transgender people, rights, and candidates


What explains public opinion toward transgender people, rights, and candidates? Drawing on original data from a national telephone survey of US adults, this study explains attitudes regarding (1) the personal characteristics of transgender people; (2) a variety of transgender rights; and (3) transgender candidates for public office, measured through a randomized experiment included in the survey. Results indicate majority support on most policy questions, but more tepid views of transgender people, and solid opposition to supporting a transgender candidate for office. Our analyses reflect and extend previous research on American public opinion. Respondents’ fundamental values (egalitarianism, moral traditionalism, party identity, ideology, and religiosity) and personality characteristics (need for cognitive closure) predict views of transgender people and support for their rights. A significant relationship also emerged between television use and views of transgender people, suggesting that media portrayals may play a role in shaping these perceptions. In contrast, there is no evidence that interpersonal contact with a transgender person is related to opinions. Further, many of these independent variables have little moderating effect on responses to transgender candidates, which remain negative among most subgroups.

Public Opinion Quarterly 82(2):252–278
Philip Edward Jones
Philip Edward Jones
Associate Professor of Political Science