A new set of Public Religion Research Institute surveys have found that a majority of Americans from across political and religious divides believe transgender people should be given the same legal protections against discrimination as other Americans. Perhaps even more interestingly for trans rights advocates, respondents in the survey said they had a good level of understanding about transgender identity and issues.
Americans Starting to Understand Trans Identity?
The August and September Religion and Politics Tracking Surveys were conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and released amid increased attention on transgender issues following Chaz Bono’s appearance on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. In the surveys around two-thirds of Americans said they felt well informed about transgender persons and issues. But what did they thing it meant to be trans? This is an important question so we’ll examine that first.
According to the survey’s methodology information two surveys were carried out, the first to asses support for trans rights and the second to gauge understanding of what it means to be transgender in its most basic sense:
Results of the August survey were based on random digit dial telephone survey of 1,006 adults conducted between August 11, 2011 and August 14, 2011. Results of the September survey were based on random digit dial telephone survey of 1,013 adults (301 were reached by cell phone) conducted between September 14, 2011 and September 18, 2011. The margin of error for both surveys is +/- 3.0 percentage points.
In order to test the effects of knowledge levels about the term “transgender,” half of the sample was given a basic definition of the term before answering a battery of questions, while the other half of the sample was not given a definition. The supplied definition read as follows: “The term ‘transgender’ applies to people who live out their gender in a way that does not match the sex listed on their original birth certificate, or who physically change their sex.”
When for the September survey respondents were asked what trans identity is, a majority in the half of the sample who were not given a definition of trans identity offered responses that were functionally similar to the definition given to the other half of the sample, indicating that Americans have a basic understanding of trans identity.
In order to determine whether Americans understood the term “transgender,” PRRI conducted a follow-up survey in September 2011 that asked respondents to report what the term “transgender” meant to them in their own words.
Among the 91% of Americans who report that they have heard of the term transgender, 76% give an essentially accurate definition.
Thus, overall, more than two-thirds (69%) of Americans are able to identify what the term “transgender” means without any assistance.
Forty-six percent define a transgender person as someone who switches from one gender to another, either generally (39%) or through a medical procedure (7%).
Eleven percent define a transgender person as someone who lives like the opposite gender (6%) or identifies more with the opposite gender (5%).
Ten percent describe a transgender person as someone who is born the wrong sex or born in the wrong body.
Nine percent define a transgender person as someone who has identified with both genders.
The following are examples of verbatim responses:
– “A person who feels like they are more like the other sex”
– “It’s someone born one sex, and they think they’re another”
– “Generally someone who thinks they are in the wrong body”
Reducing any varied group to a single definition and then judging knowledge of that group based on how closely respondents mirror that definition will, by design, only yield a narrow set of results. That said, given the sparsity of data regarding national support for trans rights one must have a starting point, and for the purpose of assessing support for trans employment, housing and credit rights this seems an acceptable if admittedly not perfect conceit.
Next Page: Majority Supports Trans People Having Equal Rights
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