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CBS News poll: Despite progress, most Americans say LGBTQ discrimination still exists

New CBS News polling on LGBTQ+ issues
New CBS News polling on LGBTQ+ issues 00:39

A big majority of Americans — nearly 8 in 10 — say the last 50 years have brought progress in ending discrimination against LGBTQ people. However, most also feel some discrimination still exists in society today.

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Majorities think at least some discrimination exists today against people who are gay and lesbian and those who are transgender, and comparatively, more see "a lot" of discrimination against transgender people specifically.

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These levels of perceived discrimination are slightly lower now than in 2019, when similar questions were asked. 

Transgender student athletes

Several states have recently proposed legislation concerning transgender student athletes. Our poll finds most Americans overall think transgender student athletes should only be allowed to play on teams that match the sex they were born as, while four in 10 say they should be allowed to play on a team that matches the gender they consider themselves to be. These views extend across most demographic groups.

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Democrats and liberals stand apart from the public overall on this. Majorities of these groups say transgender student athletes should be allowed to play on a team that matches the gender they consider themselves to be.  Most other political and demographic groups feel these athletes should only play on the team that matches their sex at birth.  

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Another factor that shapes views on this: personally knowing someone who is transgender.

More than half of those who know a transgender person say transgender student athletes should be allowed to play on team sports that match the gender they consider themselves to be.

A third of Americans report knowing someone who is transgender — either a family member, friend, work colleague or themselves.

Also, most of those who perceive "a lot" of discrimination against transgender individuals believe transgender athletes should be permitted to play on the team matches their gender identity.

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Same-sex marriage

This is not the first time we've seen personal relationships influence views concerning LGBTQ issues.  

During the earlier days of the debate over same-sex marriage and before it was legal nationwide, our polling found people who knew someone who is gay or lesbian were more supportive of legal marriage for same-sex couples compared to those who did not know someone. And in 2013, when those who once opposed same-sex marriage were asked why they changed their mind to supporting it, knowing someone who was gay or lesbian was among the top answers given.

Today, same sex marriage is supported by a majority of Americans and has been for nearly a decade.

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Support has become more widespread over time. Those across all age groups and education levels favor legal marriage for same-sex couples.

Some differences along political and ideological lines remain, however. Large majorities of Democrats, liberals, independents and moderates support same-sex marriage, while most conservatives do not. Among Republicans, there is more support among those who are younger — Republicans under age 45 are split on same-sex marriage- while two-thirds of older Republicans are opposed. 

Religiosity plays a role too. People who say religion is "very important" in their daily life do not think same-sex marriage should be legal.

Democrats and liberals were early supporters of same-sex marriage and, today, these groups favor allowing transgender athletes to play on a sports team that matches the gender they consider themselves to be. 


This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,073 U.S. adult residents interviewed between June 11-14, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on  the U.S. Census American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. The margin of error is ± 2.6 points.

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