Does anybody really care what the sign says? According to the most recent CNN/ORC poll, not enough care about gender separation for public bathrooms to pass laws about it. Only 38% support laws such as North Carolina’s HB2, which created a standard public policy for bathroom access in public facilities while allowing private businesses to set their own policies regarding transgender use of facilities:
Americans broadly oppose laws that would require transgender people to use facilities that correspond with their gender at birth rather than their gender identity, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, and three-quarters favor laws guaranteeing equal protection for transgender individuals.
Overall, 57% say they oppose laws requiring transgender individuals to use facilities that do not match their gender identity, 38% support such laws. Strong opposition (39%) outweighs strong support for these laws (25%). There’s a partisan gap on the question, with Democrats and independents more apt to oppose them than Republicans.
This result came from the same poll that produced the election head-to-heads released last week, in which Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 13 and Ted Cruz by 10, but trailed John Kasich by seven. The sample included 31% Democrats, 26% Republicans, and 43% independents, which may be a little too high but isn’t necessarily out of the question — especially in this cycle.
In this case, though, the independents are not exactly the problem for social conservatives trying to hold the line on what they see as common sense. Among Republicans, support for and opposition to bathroom laws result in a 48/48 tie, and strong support and strong opposition meet in a virtual tie at 34/31. Even among self-identified conservatives, support is only at 50/44, and the strong positions come in at 36/31. Other than those, no other demographic supports the enforcement of gender on public bathrooms.
In fact, there is a profound level of support for laws operating in the other direction. Three-quarters of respondents want to see laws passed that protect the transgendered in jobs, housing, and public accommodations, including 60/38 among Republicans and 58/39 among conservatives. Eighty percent want similar laws passed to protect gays and lesbians (laws already on the books in most states), including 67% of Republicans and 66% of conservatives. Interestingly, this does not have much to do with familiarity; 58% of all respondents say they have gay/lesbian family members or close friends, while only 14% say the same about the transgendered — yet the levels of response on the policy questions are nearly the same.
Could this be an outlier? Sure, but it could also mean that the supporters of laws such as HB2 have not done a very good job of building support for these laws. If these numbers hold up, expect Democrats to leverage this in the general election, perhaps especially in down-ballot races.