CBS/NYT poll: Americans divided over transgender bathroom laws, SCOTUS nomination

By Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus, Sarah Dutton and Jennifer De Pinto

While 46 percent of Americans think transgender people should use the bathrooms assigned to their birth gender, slightly fewer -- 41 percent -- think they should be able use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. Most Americans think guidelines outlining the bathroom policies for transgender children in school should be set by local and state governments, not by the federal government.

Men, Republicans, conservatives, evangelicals, Americans 45 and older, and Americans who live in the South and Midwest think transgender people should use the bathroom of the gender they were born as. Women, Democrats, liberals, Americans under 45, and those who live in he Northeast and West think they should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as.

Slightly more Americans think the Senate should hold a hearing to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court (48 percent) than think it should wait for a nominee from the next President (45 percent). Support for a Senate vote before the end of President Obama's term in office has dropped since March.

President Obama's job approval rating has nudged up to 50 percent, the highest it has been since the beginning of his second term.

Transgender Rights and "Bathroom Bills"

With the country locked in a heated national debate over transgender rights in schools and in public life, Americans are divided over the issue of transgender people and public bathrooms. In keeping with legislation that has been introduced in a number of states, 46 percent of Americans think transgender people should have to use the bathroom of the gender they were born as, while slightly fewer -- 41 percent -- think they should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as.


Transgender people should use the bathroom of the gender:
They were born as46%
They identify as41%

There are stark political and cultural divisions on this debate. While two thirds of Republicans (65 percent) and conservatives (66 percent) think transgender people should use the bathroom of the gender they were born as, about as many Democrats (60 percent) and liberals (71 percent) think they should use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. And while more Americans under 45 think they should use the bathroom of the gender they identify as, slightly higher percentages of older Americans think the opposite.

Regionally, Americans in the Northeast and particularly the West think transgender people should use the bathroom they identify as, while more Americans in the Midwest and particularly the South -- where many of these bills have been introduced -- favor transgender people using the bathrooms of the gender they were born as.

Men and women are also divided: most men think they should use the bathroom assigned to the gender they were born as, while women tend to favor letting transgender people use the bathroom of the gender they identify as.

Recently the Obama administration has weighed in on at least a part of this debate, setting out federal guidelines advising schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. Despite this presidential directive, most Americans (57 percent) think such guidelines should be determined by state and local governments, not by the federal government (35 percent).


Who should set guidelines for which bathrooms
transgender students should use in school?
TotalRepsDemsInds
State/local governments57%77%42%57%
The federal government35185131

Merrick Garland and the Supreme Court Standoff

Public opinion may be starting to turn away from the Obama administration on another issue of public debate: whether or not the U.S. Senate should vote on President Obama's nominee to fill the vacant seat of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Forty-eight percent of Americans think the U.S. Senate should hold a vote on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, while 45 percent say the Senate should wait for the next president to nominate someone. Back in March, support for holding a vote in the Senate was higher (53 percent), constituting a majority of Americans.

The growing opposition to holding a vote this term is largely among Republicans: now just 22 percent of Republicans support holding a vote, compared to 32 percent in March. Most Democrats (69 percent) think the Senate should vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland, while independents are divided.

Presidential Approval

Meanwhile, President Obama's job approval rating has inched up to 50 percent - the highest it has been in three years. Views of how President Obama is handling his job remain highly partisan, with 87 percent of Democrats approving and 83 percent of Republicans disapproving. Slightly more independents disapprove (47 percent) than approve (42 percent).


President Obama's job approval rating
Now4/20165/20155/20145/20132/2013
Approve50%46%42%43%47%52%
Disapprove434548484338

While approval of the President's handling of the economy is mixed, Americans tend to disapprove of how he's handling foreign policy. Approval of President Obama's handling of both of these measures is similar to last month.

Feelings about Congress, Washington, and the Direction of the Country

President Obama's approval rating remains far above that enjoyed by Congress. Just 14 percent of Americans approve of how Congress is handling its job, while three in four Americans disapprove. Disapproval of Congress cuts across all party divisions. At 14 percent, approval of Congress is just five points above its all-time low of 9 percent reached in October 2013.

Americans are not just disillusioned with Congress, but with the way things are going in Washington these days in general. Just one in five Americans are satisfied or enthusiastic with the way Washington D.C. works. Instead 50 percent describe themselves as dissatisfied and 26 percent say they are angry. While satisfaction is higher among Democrats than either Republicans or independents, most Democrats are also at least dissatisfied.


Feeling about the way things are going in Washington
TotalRepsDemsInds
Enthusiastic2%1%4%2%
Satisfied1982916
Dissatisfied50524850
Angry26381628

By more than two to one, Americans think the country as a whole is also off on the wrong track. Nine in 10 Republicans and two-thirds of independents think so, though a majority of Democrats think the country is headed in the right direction. These percentages have changed little since last month.


This poll was conducted by telephone May 13-17, 2016 among a random sample of 1,300 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and the New York Times by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.

The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

CBS-NYT poll toplines: Transgender bathrooms, SCOTUS, Obama approval by CBSNewsPolitics