The United States is witnessing a concerning decline in public support for LGBTQ+ rights, marking a departure from the previous trend of increasing acceptance.
The 2023 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has found that the US public remains broadly supportive of antidiscrimination protections and marriage equality, and a majority reject policies that would allow businesses to refuse services to gay and lesbian people based on their religious beliefs.
However, there has been a notable decrease in support across the board in the past few years, with marriage equality, in particular, experiencing a drop from 72% in August 2021 to 66% in favour in 2023.
Partisan Dynamics and Bathroom Bills
PRRI says that “partisan dynamics” in American politics play a crucial role in shaping these changes.
Notably, support for restrictive bathroom laws that require transgender individuals to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth rather than their current gender identity, has gained traction among Republicans, with support growing from 44% in 2016 to 80% in 2023.
Support for Bathroom bills among Democrats, on the other hand, has consistently remained low, with 31 percent in both years, showcasing a clear partisan divide.
The polarization extends beyond partisan lines, with individual states exhibiting varying trends in opinions on restrictive bathroom policies. While some states have remained stable or even opposed such measures, others have seen increased division or growing support.
The divide is accentuated by a cluster of traditionally “red states” (that predominantly support the Republican Party) becoming more favourable toward restrictive policies.
Potential Impact of Anti-LGBTQ+ Shift
PRRI says that the resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, demonstrations, and legislation in the US indicates a potential shift in societal norms. It warns that the anti-LGBTQ sentiment may be shifting the opinion landscape about LGBTQ people and rights.
“If subsequent surveys continue to show what the 2023 PRRI American Values Survey reveals, then it is quite possible that the policy landscape in the US for LGBTQ people remains bifurcated and possibly becomes even more divided,” writes Andrew R. Flores, Ph.D., a member of the 2023-2024 cohort of PRRI Public Fellows.