Poll: End Workplace Discrimination Against Gays

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Members and supporters of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community protest United States-based economic trading with Russian-oriented companies outside the New York Stock Exchange on November 18, 2013 in New York City. Russia passed anti-LGBT-friendly laws over the summer, including laws that effectively make any pro-LGBT statements or demonstrations illegal. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Dec. 10, 2013, 5:15 p.m.

A strong ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans say they sup­port the Em­ploy­ment Non-Dis­crim­in­a­tion Act, le­gis­la­tion that would ban most private busi­nesses from work­place dis­crim­in­a­tion based on sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion or gender iden­tity, ac­cord­ing to the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll. A plur­al­ity of Re­pub­lic­ans dis­sent, the sur­vey found, but their ob­jec­tions fade if the meas­ure ap­plied only to sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion.

The num­bers un­der­score the de­gree to which pub­lic opin­ion has swung in fa­vor of ex­pand­ing gay rights, even if sup­port lags for trans­gender men and wo­men. And they demon­strate the pre­dic­a­ment fa­cing Re­pub­lic­ans, who more of­ten than not now find them­selves on the los­ing end of the cul­ture war. Like im­mig­ra­tion, some types of gun con­trol, and — in­creas­ingly — gay mar­riage, the GOP op­poses le­gis­la­tion that draws sup­port from a ma­jor­ity of the coun­try.

In Novem­ber, 10 Re­pub­lic­ans joined with Demo­crats to ap­prove ENDA in the Sen­ate. But the GOP-con­trolled House has shelved the le­gis­la­tion, and there’s little hope among its sup­port­ers that it will re­ceive a vote on the floor.

In the poll, re­spond­ents were told the Sen­ate had passed le­gis­la­tion that sup­port­ers “say is ne­ces­sary to en­sure that all work­ers are treated equally wheth­er they are het­ero­sexu­al or ho­mo­sexu­al,” while op­pon­ents “say it will lead to un­ne­ces­sary law­suits and im­pinge on re­li­gious free­dom.” They were then asked if they sup­por­ted the meas­ure and if it should in­clude trans­gender people.

Fifty-six per­cent of those sur­veyed said they would sup­port a meas­ure pro­tect­ing both groups; 28 per­cent op­pose it out­right. An­oth­er 9 per­cent fell in between. They sup­por­ted the le­gis­la­tion if it pro­tec­ted only gay men and wo­men and not trans­gender people.

That pat­tern held across most edu­ca­tion­al, gender, and ra­cial lines: Sup­port for in­clud­ing trans­gender pro­tec­tions lagged roughly 10 points be­hind those for sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion. Among Demo­crats, for ex­ample, 75 per­cent favored a meas­ure that in­cluded only sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, while just 65 per­cent sup­por­ted one for gay and trans­gender people.

The gap will frus­trate trans­gender ad­voc­ates, but they should also find reas­on for op­tim­ism. They don’t have as much pub­lic sup­port as the gay-rights move­ment, whose high-pro­file fight over gay mar­riage is known to most every­one in the coun­try. But sup­port for trans­gender men and wo­men ap­pears to have grown just as it has for causes like gay mar­riage — so much so that after be­ing stripped from a 2007 ver­sion of the ENDA, trans­gender pro­tec­tions were in­cluded in the cur­rent it­in­er­a­tion that passed the Sen­ate on Nov. 7.

Re­pub­lic­ans, however, have less reas­on to smile. In ad­di­tion to an over­all ma­jor­ity, sup­port for ENDA cuts across most demo­graph­ic groups. And it even draws sig­ni­fic­ant sup­port from rank-and-file GOP voters, 43 per­cent of whom sup­port the le­gis­la­tion. A plur­al­ity — 49 per­cent — op­pose it, but the num­bers flip if only sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion is pro­tec­ted. In that case, 53 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans would back ENDA, while 40 per­cent wouldn’t.

The strong pub­lic sup­port comes nearly a year after the GOP vowed to broaden its ap­peal by, in part, dis­tan­cing it­self from cri­ti­cism that its agenda is dis­crim­in­at­ory. Few voters will pick their can­did­ate based on sup­port or op­pos­i­tion to a re­l­at­ively minor is­sue like ENDA, but it — along with the party’s much high­er-pro­file con­tin­ued op­pos­i­tion to gay mar­riage — squeezes its abil­ity to at­tract grow­ing parts of the Amer­ic­an elect­or­ate like young people, minor­it­ies, and white pro­fes­sion­als. United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll show­ing that a ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans sup­port le­gis­la­tion to bar em­ploy­ers from treat­ing work­ers dif­fer­ently due to their sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion.

It’s why some Re­pub­lic­an op­er­at­ives are adam­ant the party needs to em­brace the le­gis­la­tion. “Sup­port for ENDA should be a no-brain­er: An over­whelm­ing num­ber of Amer­ic­ans be­lieve Con­gress should pass this bill,” said Alex Lun­dry, a strategist who has worked to per­suade his party to sup­port the le­gis­la­tion and gay mar­riage. “Re­gard­less of where Re­pub­lic­ans are on gay mar­riage, there is ma­jor­ity agree­ment among the party’s voters that no one be dis­crim­in­ated against in the work­place.”

More edu­ca­tion pre­dis­poses people to sup­port the bill. Fifty-one per­cent of blue-col­lar whites back a meas­ure pro­tect­ing trans­gendered and gay people, 12 points lower than the 63 per­cent of white-col­lar whites who do. Among non­whites, the split is 60-35.

And like gay rights, the le­gis­la­tion does pro­duce a pro­nounced gen­er­a­tion­al dif­fer­ence. Sup­port is over­whelm­ing among 18-to-29-year-olds, at 67-29 per­cent. That’s a 44-point shift from seni­or cit­izens, a plur­al­ity of whom — 48 per­cent — op­pose it. Forty-two per­cent of seni­ors back le­gis­la­tion that of­fers pro­tec­tions for gay and trans­gendered people.

In­ter­views for the United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll were con­duc­ted by land­line and cell phones with a na­tion­ally rep­res­ent­at­ive sample of 1,002 adults by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al from Dec. 5-8. The mar­gin of er­ror for the poll was plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

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