A giant Trans Flag unfurled outside the Supreme Court. 133

Majority of Americans reject anti-trans bills, but support for this restriction is rising

A majority of Americans oppose restrictions on LGBTQ+ people, yet the latest PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll shows support for such laws is growing as many Republican state and local lawmakers pursue hundreds of bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights around the country.

Forty-three percent of Americans now say they support laws that criminalize the act of providing gender-transition-related medical care to minors, according to the latest poll, marking a 15-percentage point increase since April 2021. About half of Americans — 54 percent — say they oppose such laws.

“It’s promising to see a majority of Americans oppose these dangerous, misguided bills targeting the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender young people, at a time when we’re witnessing nonstop anti-trans political attacks and irresponsible news coverage across both mainstream and right-wing outlets,” said Jonah DeChants, senior research scientist at The Trevor Project, in a written statement to the PBS NewsHour.

trans health care- bar chart SITE-2

Chart by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

So far in this year’s legislative session, state lawmakers have introduced 434 bills that restrict fundamentals like health care, education and the freedom of expression for LGBTQ+ people, and are concentrated across Southern states, according to analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union. Most bills have advanced to committee and nearly two dozen have passed into law. That overall tally is up from last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, when 315 bills were introduced.

In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently signed a ban on transgender people using school bathrooms that do not match the gender listed on their birth certificates. In Florida, lawmakers introduced a bill that prevents minors from receiving gender-affirming care and would force kids to detransition if they had already begun hormone therapy.

“Let’s give doctors and parents the ability to decide which prescribed medications their trans young people need, not politicians,” added DeChants, whose organization works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.

Republicans, white evangelical Christians and parents with children under age 18 were most likely to support laws that target transgender communities, according to this latest poll.

“Politicians have decided it’s more important to declare who you are against than to declare who you are for,” said Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University. “That carries more weight.”

Meanwhile, legal restrictions on drag shows and performances, such as what Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law in February, seem to have found solid support among Republicans, white evangelical Christians and Trump voters. But overall they are in the minority: Roughly six out of 10 Americans reject such laws.

Here are some other key takeaways from our latest poll.

How do Americans prioritize the nation’s biggest issues?

Asked about the biggest issue that faces the country, 31 percent of Americans say it’s the economy. In addition to the bank failures that occurred in the days before this poll was taken, protracted concerns about inflation, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and significant tech industry layoffs may have many Americans spooked over the nation’s economic stability. The economy appears to be a particularly important concern for Republicans and Trump voters, but also to parents with kids under 18 and Generation X.

When it comes to rating President Joe Biden, about half of U.S. adults — 52 percent — don’t like how he is managing, while 38 percent support his efforts to stabilize the economy. Despite a strong labor market with low rates of unemployment, months of historically high inflation put a strain on household finances that many people have not forgotten.

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Chart by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

Overall, Biden’s approval dipped slightly from February, with 42 percent of Americans saying they support what he is doing as president. His approval ratings have dwelled in the low 40s for most of his presidency, aside from upticks in support following his State of the Union speeches. Meanwhile, 49 percent disapprove in this latest poll.

Preserving democracy was the second-highest ranking priority, and the most important to 20 percent of Americans, especially Democrats and Biden voters.

Fewer than 10 percent of Americans considered the following issues to be the top concerns for the country at this time: health care (9 percent), immigration (8 percent), climate change (8 percent), crime (7 percent), gun policy (6 percent), abortion (5 percent) and education (4 percent).

Health care as a basic human right

In the weeks and months ahead, U.S. health care coverage will face one of its greatest challenges – the unwinding of Medicaid’s continuous coverage as the coronavirus pandemic’s public health emergency ends.

Since 2020, tens of millions of Americans have been allowed to keep their health care coverage under Medicaid to ensure they were able to access medical care, COVID vaccines, tests and more as the virus swept the country. Finally, in January, the Biden administration announced plans to declare the end of the public health emergency on May 11. But that means that many states will begin the daunting task of figuring out who still qualifies for Medicaid and who doesn’t. As many as 14 million people could lose their health care coverage.

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Chart by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

Eight out of 10 U.S. adults say all Americans have a basic right to health care coverage, perhaps a testament to the Affordable Care Act’s endurance despite years of political turmoil and multiple Republican attempts to repeal it altogether.

One of the ACA’s cornerstones is the expansion of health care coverage through Medicaid to prevent people from getting sick and having no way to pay for the care they needed. This week, North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature reversed its opposition to the expansion, becoming the 40th state (plus the District of Columbia) to agree to offer public health care coverage to nearly everyone. Ten states have not agreed to make health care available for all residents.

This latest polling data shows “pretty strong numbers” and suggest the ACA has come a long way in generating public support, Brown said. Over the last 13 years, she said, “it became part of people’s lives. Now it’s the third rail. You can’t talk about getting rid of it because people have come to accept and expect that benefit.”

Sixty-three percent of Americans say they think the federal government is responsible for guaranteeing that all Americans have health care coverage. That marks a significant rise from 47 percent in 2010 after the ACA went into effect.

Ban on TikTok?

In the days surrounding a high-profile hearing where senators grilled the CEO of TikTok, seven out of 10 U.S. adults said the social media platform poses a threat to national security, including three out of 10 who felt it presents a major threat. Overall, a majority of Americans support a ban on TikTok.

Gen Z and millennials are the least likely to view TikTok as a threat and the most likely to say there is nothing wrong with it. Older generations take greater issue with the platform after it has come under scrutiny for its ties to China. Earlier this month, the Biden administration said that if TikTok was not sold, the White House would ban the app nationwide.

“The folks who least support the ban understand TikTok the most,” said Ahmed Ghappour, associate professor of law at Boston University

tiktok threat- bar chart SITE

Chart by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour

TikTok has a reported 150 million U.S. users and research suggests a growing number of people are getting their news from the social media platform. On Wednesday, the United States joins other nations in requiring the app be removed from government devices out of concerns that data may be compromised by the Chinese government, which owns a stake in the app’s parent company.

Ghappour said there has been no public evidence of violations of data privacy or manipulations.

Even if the app were removed, Ghappour said, foreign nations, including China, “can probably get all or most of that information through other sources.”

The PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll conducted a survey between March 20 and March 23 that polled 1,327 U.S. adults with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points and 1,226 registered voters with a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.