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Trump supporters in battleground states largely favor LGBTQ rights, poll finds

Likely voters in 10 battleground states were found to overwhelmingly support LGBTQ rights, according to a survey by Hart Research and the Human Rights Campaign.
Supporters of President Donald Trump attend a Make America Great Again rally as he campaigns at Orlando Sanford International Airport in Sanford, Fla., on Oct. 12, 2020.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Voters in 10 battleground states overwhelmingly support LGBTQ rights — including a plurality, and on some issues a majority, of those who back the re-election of President Donald Trump — according to a report released Tuesday.

Hart Research surveyed 400 likely voters in each of the 10 states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin — on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

Two telephone polls conducted in the second half of September found that "voters have clear and abiding support for LGBTQ equality across a host of issues."

Less than 30 percent of respondents believed business owners had a right to deny service to LGBTQ customers, and a majority of respondents supported same-sex marriage and adoption. On the high end was Pennsylvania, with 67 percent supporting both. On the low end, only 50 percent of North Carolina voters approved of same-sex marriage, and 52 percent backed LGBTQ people's right to adopt.

The survey found Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, leading President Donald Trump in all but three of the 10 states surveyed: Iowa, Ohio and Texas. Biden, who has been endorsed by HRC, has positioned himself as a staunch ally of LGBTQ rights, saying in an address to the group last month that LGBTQ Americans deserved "a partner in the White House."

"Together we'll pass the Equality Act, protect LGBTQ youth, expand access to health care, support LGBTQ workers, win full rights for transgender Americans, recommit to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2025 [and] advance LGBT rights around the globe, not just at home," Biden said.

The survey also found that "pro-equality" Democratic Senate candidates, meaning those who support LGBTQ rights, are faring well in the final stretches of their campaigns. These battleground-state candidates, the report notes, "earn substantial support from voters under age 40, a notably pro-LGBTQ rights audience." Examples cited include Mark Kelly of Arizona, who the survey found is leading his Republican opponent, Sen. Martha McSally, by 12 percentage points, and Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who's leading his GOP challenger, John James, by 8 points.

In each battleground state surveyed, more than 40 percent of respondents said they'd feel "less favorable" toward a politician who opposed LGBTQ rights, with only 5 percent to 11 percent saying they'd feel "more favorable toward them."

"In the current political climate, you have a party and its leaders who are catering to a minority, because it's vocal," said Lucas Acosta, national press secretary for HRC. "A 'minority' might be too strong a word — 'a small collective.' And they're dragging down the candidates that are appeasing them. The electorate is moving in our direction."

The survey drilled down into the Equality Act, proposed legislation that would bar anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and other arenas. It passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2019 but has not been taken up by the Republican-led Senate.

Support for the bill in all of the surveyed states outweighed opposition by more than 2 to 1 — and in some cases more than 3 to 1. Even among Trump voters, supporters outnumbered opponents by at least 10 percentage points.

"Given the arc of public opinion, the GOP Senate's failure to act on this legislation would seem to be a mistake, as large majorities of voters across the diverse group of states express support for it," the report said.

The poll also suggests that transgender rights are not the divisive issue opponents would have the public believe.

In September, Republican senators introduced the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, which would make it a violation of federal civil rights law for schools to allow transgender females to compete in girls' sports. But according to the Hart Research poll, transgender participation in school sports was ranked the least important issue compared to the economy, jobs, health care, Covid-19 and other topics.

Voters "have no interest in seeing transgender people demonized or having basic rights for transgender people used as political footballs," the report found.

In every state surveyed, at least 60 percent of Trump supporters said trans people should be able to live free of discrimination. More than 85 percent said they should have equal access to medical care. The results seem in contrast with the policies of the Trump administration, which has attempted to reverse Affordable Care Act guidelines that determined that health care discrimination protections "on the basis of sex" applied to transgender patients, as well. It also banned transgender service members from the military and supported the right of homeless shelters to turn away transgender clients.

The White House opposed Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the recent Supreme Court decision that determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But by wide margins, voters in all the states said that the next Supreme Court justice should be someone "who has a record of protecting and advancing legal rights for LGBTQ people."

Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has been criticized by LGBTQ advocacy groups, including HRC, for her past remarks on LGBTQ-related cases and issues, including her defense of the justices who dissented in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 decision that made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S. Barrett also argued in 2016 during a lecture at Jacksonville University in Florida that interpreting Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, to include LGBTQ people would "seem to strain the text of the statute."

During her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Barrett largely declined to answer questions about her views on specific court cases, including Obergefell v. Hodges. While she would not say whether she agreed with the Supreme Court's decision, she said: "I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent."

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