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New Poll Shows Massive Public Backlash to Anti-LGBTQ School Policies

The numbers show GOP policies like book bans, sports discrimination, and Don't Say Gay bills are wildly unpopular.

Max Newell, left, joins student demonstrators as they protest against Katy ISD's new transgender policy outside the school district's educational support complex on August 30, 2023 in Katy, Texas.

Over the past two years, over a dozen states — all under Republican governance — have enacted policies that forcibly disclose the gender identities of transgender youth to their families, ban LGBTQ+ literature in educational settings, and prohibit educators from discussing LGBTQ+ topics. Driven by a wave of right-wing, anti-trans sentiment, teachers have been labeled as “groomers” and terminated for even showing incidental support for LGBTQ+ people, such as showing classroom films with LGBTQ+ characters in them. At the same time, books with LGBTQ+ themes are facing scrutiny, and students are subjected to exhaustive investigations into their gender — often instigated by parents who question the legitimacy of a transgender student’s athletic victory. Now, a new Navigator Research survey reveals significant public backlash against the GOP’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues in schools.

Navigator Research surveyed 1,000 registered voters between August 17-August 21 to ask about education policy in general. When asked about the top three issues voters care about, only 28 percent listed “being exposed to woke issues about gender and race in school” as one of their top three issues. Instead, topics such as safety from gun violence, education quality, and providing mental healthcare in school garnered widespread support.

See the survey results on education priorities here:

The survey delved into specific policies enacted in conservative states, revealing broad public disapproval. Policies involving book bans and mandatory genital inspections for youth athletes in order to confirm their sex were especially unpopular, with 92 percent and 84 percent opposition, respectively. Additional measures, such as the prohibition of Advanced Placement African-American History, suspensions for teachers who show support for LGBTQ+ students, and bans on classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, also faced strong opposition — each garnering over 65 percent disapproval in the survey. Opposition was even widespread among parents, who opposed each of these policies.

See the survey results on specific policies here:

These findings pose a significant challenge for conservatives who are doubling down on an anti-LGBTQ+ platform. When considered alongside other polls, such as a Fox News survey in which 86 percent of respondents identified attacks on transgender children as “a problem,” the data suggest that Republicans are experiencing substantial backlash. This is particularly relevant given the considerable focus they have placed on targeting transgender individuals in schools and in personal lives. According to the Navigator survey, a mere 34 percent of voters indicated trust in the Republican Party on these issues. Democrats currently enjoy a 10-point advantage on matters related to race and gender in educational settings, buoyed by strong support from independent voters.

Anti-trans politics have not been successful for Republicans in recent elections, either. In Georgia, Herschel Walker featured an anti-trans swimmer, Riley Gaines, in his final election ads to try to make the race about transgender issues – he lost his election bid. Similar defeats happened in Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, where millions were spent on anti-trans election ads failed to bring about Republican victories. Most recently, Ohio Republicans spent $2,000,000 on anti-trans ads to try to convince voters that voting no on a constitutional amendment ballot initiative designed to make abortion protections harder to pass would actually lead to “trans surgeries for kids.” The referendum suffered a massive double-digit defeat.

Despite this, Republicans persist in prioritizing anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ policies in their campaigns. To date, 16 states have imposed restrictions on discussing LGBTQ+ topics in schools, while 23 states have enacted sports bans targeting transgender youth. In Georgia, a teacher was recently dismissed for reading the Scholastic Kids book “My Shadow Is Purple” in a showy hearing featuring school administrators grilling her support for LGBTQ+ students. Similarly, in Florida, a teacher lost her job simply for screening a Disney film that included an LGBTQ+ character. In Oklahoma, students who wish to participate in sports must complete “biological sex affidavits.” Just this past weekend, Iowa teachers started distributing legal notices and forms to parents seeking permission for nickname use, such as “Joe” for a student named Joseph. These policies starkly contrast with the voter sentiments revealed in the survey, signaling a discord between public opinion and legislative action.

There are indications that Republicans may be recognizing the political liability associated with these issues. During a recent debate, when GOP primary candidate Nikki Haley was questioned about transgender individuals in schools, she quickly shifted the conversation to reading remediation. Other candidates also refrained from extensively discussing the topic, largely sidestepping the issue altogether. It’s probable that their internal polling aligns with recent external surveys, revealing both the topic’s limited traction and a notable absence of strong support. Nevertheless, the policies continue to be heavily pushed by Republicans in state legislatures, and voters will see their record when they do head to the ballot boxes in 2024.

This piece was republished with permission from Erin In The Morning.

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