What Americans think about the rights of LGBTQ+ people and discrimination against them

Oana DumitruContributor
December 01, 2023, 10:38 PM GMT+0

In recent years' election campaigns, American politicians have increasingly emphasized their stances on LGBTQ+ issues. A July YouGov survey found that Americans think discrimination against LGBTQ+ people remains high, though pluralities think things are better than in the recent past and will improve in the future. Support for the legality of gay marriage has increased significantly in recent decades.

A smaller share of Americans support a law banning gay marriage in the United States today than did 20 years ago. While one-third of Americans (33%) today say they would favor banning gay marriage, 52% of Americans favored such a law in 2003, according to a poll by the Associated Press. Republicans are more likely than Democrats and Independents to favor a law banning gay marriage today.

Americans' opinion on which political party has stronger policies regarding LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, etc.) issues often aligns with their political identity. By 42% to 17%, Americans say Democrats have better policies on the issue of gay rights and discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. Democrats' edge on this question has grown slightly since it was asked 25 years ago in a Louis Harris & Associates poll. Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to say that their own party has better policies. The same is true for Republicans: They are more likely to say that Republicans have better policies than Democrats. More than one-third of Independents say that neither party has the better policies when it comes to gay rights.

Among eight groups of people polled about, transgender women and transgender men are the two groups that the largest shares of Americans say experience a great deal of discrimination (40% and 38%, respectively). About 30% of Americans say the same about gay men, and 22% about lesbian women. The numbers for each of these categories are slightly higher than in May 2022, according to a YouGov poll at the time that asked the same question and found that 37% of Americans said transgender men experience a great deal of discrimination, 36% said the same about transgender women, 24% about gay men, and 19% about lesbian women. Democrats are more likely than Independents and Republicans to say that people with each of the four LGBTQ identities included in the poll experience a great deal of discrimination.

More than one-third (37%) of Americans say discrimination against gays and lesbians, as well as homophobia more generally, are major problems in the U.S., including 59% of Democrats, 34% of Independents, and 13% of Republicans.

Americans who are openly part of the LGBTQ+ community also lack representation in positions of power within the U.S., but 46% of Americans say that it is somewhat or very likely that an openly gay man will be president of the U.S. in the next 50 years, while 37% say the same about an openly lesbian woman. Smaller shares of Americans say that openly transgender men or women are likely to become president in the next 50 years. The same pattern holds true for American opinion on the likelihood of LGBTQ+ members becoming Supreme Court justices in the next 50 years.

The share of Americans who say an openly lesbian woman is likely to become president in the next 50 years, as well as the share who say transgender men and women are likely to become president, have decreased slightly since May 2022, when a YouGov poll asked the same questions. The shares of Americans who say members of the LGBTQ+ community are likely to become Supreme Court justices are smaller than in 2022 for all four groups polled about.

One-quarter of Americans say that things have improved for LGBTQ+ Americans compared to a year ago, and 44% say things have improved compared to 10 years ago. For both time periods, fewer say things have gotten worse.

Looking ahead, 23% of Americans say things will improve for LGBTQ+ Americans a year from now, and 40% say things will improve in 10 years. For both time periods, fewer expect things to get worse.


See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: The YouGov poll was conducted online on July 25 - 28, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. For both polls, the sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample also was weighted by baseline party identification, which is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Pexels (Marta Branco)