After President Trump recently proposed to ban transgender people from military service, pollsters quickly noted that a majority of Americans seemed to disagree with him.
Our own research has found the same. Since 2015, we’ve published several studies on public attitudes about transgender people and rights, and in an October 2015 survey, 42 percent opposed a policy not allowing transgender people to serve openly, while only 22 percent supported it. The remainder were neutral.
When we removed the neutral option in a June 2016 national survey that we fielded, the results were even less favorable to Trump: 33 percent of the public thinks that transgender people should not be allowed to serve openly and 67 percent think they should.
But would a ban on transgender military service play well in key areas of the country? That’s what at least one Trump administration official thinks:
Just spoke to a Trump administration official about the transgender military decision. Here's what they said… pic.twitter.com/eOWdvlxTfd
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) July 26, 2017
However, this is not the case, either. Using the June 2016 survey data, we estimated the opinion in all 50 states and the District of Columbia using a statistical technique known as multilevel regression and poststratification, which provides a way to estimate state-level opinion from national surveys.
We found that there is no majority support for Trump’s proposal in any state or the District of Columbia. The graph below shows the results.
The state with the most support for Trump’s proposal was Wyoming, where we estimate that 45 percent agreed with Trump. In the Rust Belt states such as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin cited by the Trump official, less than 33 percent thought that transgender people should not be allowed to openly serve in the military.
Even in states that are more socially conservative, support for transgender military service exceeded opposition. For example, in Mississippi, 64 percent supported transgender military service and 36 percent opposed it.
There is doubt that transgender rights can be an effective wedge issue. We agree. Democratic senators are unlikely to be harmed by supporting open transgender military service. Indeed, given these findings, it is not surprising that even some Republican senators, such as Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) and Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), have criticized Trump on this issue.
Andrew R. Flores is an assistant professor of government at Mills College. Daniel C. Lewis is an associate professor of political science at Siena College. Patrick R. Miller is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Kansas. Donald P. Haider-Markel is a professor of political science at the University of Kansas. Barry L. Tadlock is an associate professor of political science at Ohio University. Jami K. Taylor is an associate professor of political science and public administration at the University of Toledo.
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