- Opposition to transgender athletes on teams matching gender identity rises
- 39% say they know someone who is transgender, up from 31% in 2021
- Majority still say changing one’s gender is morally wrong
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A larger majority of Americans now (69%) than in 2021 (62%) say transgender athletes should only be allowed to compete on sports teams that conform with their birth gender. Likewise, fewer endorse transgender athletes being able to play on teams that match their current gender identity, 26%, down from 34%.
These results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 1-24.
The issue has sparked debate at all levels of competitive sports, particularly around transgender women’s ability to play on women’s teams. Sports governing bodies and schools have adopted a range of policies on the issue, some more inclusive of transgender participation than others.
Transgender sports participation has also become a major political flashpoint, and elected officials in conservative-leaning states have enacted laws to ban transgender athletes who were born male from competing against female athletes. At least 20 U.S. states now have such laws, and the Republican-led U.S. House recently passed a national ban. The federal ban is unlikely to pass the Senate, and President Joe Biden has promised to veto it. The White House recently released a proposed set of guidelines that would govern decisions surrounding transgender individuals’ participation in gender-segregated sports.
The shift toward greater public opposition to transgender athletes competing on the basis of their current gender identity has occurred at the same time that more U.S. adults say they know a transgender person. Thirty-nine percent of Americans, up from 31% in 2021, say someone they know personally has told them they are transgender.
But both Americans who know and do not know a transgender individual have become less supportive of allowing transgender athletes to play on the team of their choice. Currently, 30% of those who know a transgender person favor allowing athletes to play on teams that match their current gender identity, down from 40% in 2021. Among those who do not know a transgender person, support is now 23%, down from 31%.
Republicans, Democrats and independents are all modestly less supportive of transgender athletes playing on current gender identity teams today than two years ago. The result of these changes is that Democrats are now divided on allowing transgender athletes to play on either male or female teams, while in 2021 more were in favor than opposed. Large majorities of independents (67%) and Republicans (93%) remain opposed to giving transgender athletes a choice of competing on male or female teams.
Although Democrats are currently divided on the issue, they do rank among the groups most in favor of allowing transgender athletes to play on the team that corresponds to their current gender identity. Political liberals are the lone major subgroup showing majority (57%) support for allowing transgender athletes to choose which team to play on.
Young adults (41%) are also more supportive than other subgroups and are one of the only subgroups that are not less supportive than in 2021 (35%).
Majority Say Changing One’s Gender Is Morally Wrong
The survey also asked about Americans’ more general views on being transgender. A majority, 55%, consider “changing one’s gender” to be more “morally wrong,” while 43% say it is “morally acceptable.”
Those results are slightly less accepting than in 2021, when Gallup last asked the question -- 51% thought changing one’s gender was morally wrong, and 46% morally acceptable.
The view that changing one’s gender is morally acceptable has declined more among Republicans and people who do not know a transgender individual -- down seven percentage points among both groups since 2021.
Meanwhile, roughly seven in 10 Democrats and six in 10 people who know a transgender individual continue to say gender change is morally acceptable. Independents are divided on the question, but their views, too, haven’t changed.
As with many issues that touch on morality, there are wide differences of opinion between younger and older adults. Sixty percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say changing one’s gender is morally acceptable. Among those aged 30 to 49, 48% say it is morally acceptable and 50% say morally wrong. But among Americans aged 50 and older, less than one-third of Americans, 32%, believe it is OK morally for a person to change their gender.
Older Americans are less likely now than in 2021 (39%) to believe changing one’s gender is morally acceptable. Americans under age 50 have similar views to 2021.
Laws that restrict participation for transgender athletes are generally in line with U.S. public opinion on the issue. People who know a transgender individual continue to be more accepting of pro-transgender policies than those who do not, but the relationship has weakened in the past two years. As a result, Americans have become less favorable to transgender athlete participation in single-gender sports than they were in 2021, even as more people say they know a transgender person.
It appears that Americans view transgender sports participation more through a lens of competitive fairness than transgender civil rights. Even Democrats, who mostly support LGBTQ+ rights and affirm the morality of gender change, are divided on the issue of whether transgender athletes should be allowed to participate on teams that match their gender identity rather than birth gender.
However, with younger Americans more supportive of transgender sports participation, more likely to believe changing one’s gender is morally acceptable and more likely than older people to know a transgender person, opinions may eventually shift toward more accepting views.
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