Texas GOP Leaders’ Resistance to Federal Transgender Policy Likely to Resonate With Their Voters

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Very concerned32%
Somewhat concerned21%
Not very concerned15%
Not at all concerned28%
Don't know/No opinion5%

More than half of Texans surveyed in the June 2016 University of Texas / Texas Politics Project Poll say that they are concerned about the issue of transgender access to public restrooms, perhaps validating the attention paid the issue by political leaders from Washington, D.C., to Austin, to school districts in small Texas towns.  

However, a battery of questions on the June UT/Texas Politics Project Poll reveals that the substance of these concerns are strongly shaped by sharply contrasting partisan attitudes toward transgender access to both public and public school facilities. As a group, Republicans are more concerned about transgender access to public restrooms than are Democrats, and are also much more likely to think that access to the facilities should be based on birth gender rather than gender identity, as the figures below starkly illustrate.

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Very concerned20%30%44%
Somewhat concerned20%18%22%
Not very concerned18%16%12%
Not at all concerned38%30%19%
Don't know/No opinion5%6%3%

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Their birth gender.29%47%75%
Their gender identity.50%32%12%
Don't know/No opinion21%21%13%

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Their birth gender.56%
Their gender identity.27%
Don't know/No opinion18%

Republicans are also much more likely than Democrats to believe that policies governing transgender access to public school facilities should be determined by local school districts instead of by federal or state governments. Despite recent GOP efforts in Texas and elsewhere aimed at limiting the latitude of local governments, especially cities and counties, Republican invocations of “local control” remain current when it comes to public education. In this case, recently issued federal guidance on transgender access policies in public schools emanating from the Obama administration reinforces these impulses – and resulted in Texas and 10 other states suing the federal government over the policy.

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The federal government25%
State governments21%
Local school districts34%
Don't know/No opinion20%

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The federal government49%17%9%
State governments11%17%32%
Local school districts20%37%45%
Don't know/No opinion19%30%13%

These patterns in public opinion reinforce the expectation that transgender bathroom policy is likely to continue to manifest itself as a political issue in Texas when the 85th Legislature convenes in January. While the Governor and the Speaker of the House have been comparatively muted in their reactions, the Lt. Governor and the Attorney General have taken high profile positions on the issues, making national news with the lawsuit and the rhetoric that accompanied it. Given the margins in Republican support for both the substantive position in the lawsuit – that birth gender should be the basis for access to public school facilities – and the institutional question of where the locus of authority on the issue should be – it’s hard to imagine either leader disappointing their primary base on the issue.