Transgender political candidates still likely face an uphill battle, study finds

New Hope, Texas, mayor Jess Herbst last month publicly came out as transgender, making her likely the first transgender elected official in the state.

Herbst, who was originally elected as an alderman by the name Jeff Herbst, had started after taking . The incumbent mayor then died in 2016, and Herbst was appointed as the replacement.

"It's reflective of what we're likely to see with transgender public officials," said Don Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the University of Kansas Department of Political Science. "It's not typical to have a transgender candidate running as openly transgender—like we saw with gay and lesbian candidates years earlier—but essentially revealing or outing themselves while they are in office. Some people say that seems dishonest, but public opinion research suggests that strategically that's a good idea right now."

Haider-Markel is lead author of a new study that found 35%-40% of adults would oppose a transgender candidate for office, which was higher than the 30% who would likely oppose a gay or lesbian candidate.

"Transgender candidates are likely to face more opposition than lesbian, gay or bisexual candidates, and the margins could potentially mean the difference between victory and defeat," he said.

The journal Politics, Groups, and Identities recently published online the study on individual support of transgender candidates for public office. The article "Bringing 'T' to the table: understanding individual support of transgender candidates for public office," includes Patrick Miller, a KU assistant professor of , as a co-author, and the research team has completed a series of studies on transgender politics that will appear in a variety of journals this year.

Haider-Markel said the research is the first study to look at attitudes specifically toward transgender candidates. The nationally representative survey of American adults included questions about hypothetical candidates for office.

He said the findings are key because past research and debate surrounding the LGBT movement has focused on the potential neglect of transgender issues or policies because some activists fear that could stunt or stop other policy gains for the broader gay movement.

However, Haider-Markel said the researchers did find that likely supporters of transgender candidates have a similar profile to voters who are more likely to support gay and lesbian candidates. The profile is a voter with a high level of education, a Democrat, liberal leaning, more affluent and less religious. Women are also more likely to support transgender candidates.

"As a political strategy, that means transgender candidates would have to be strategic in where and when they choose to run for office," he said. "Transgender candidates running in primarily Republican districts are not likely to be successful, given the profile of the likely supporter. That doesn't mean it will always be the case because in some Republican-leaning districts there are more highly educated voters or in those with a larger proportion of registered Democrats; in those districts they might find more success."

Other research is suggesting that more neutral or positive representation of transgender people in the media could make voters more familiar with , which in the future could influence the potential level of support for transgender candidates, Haider-Markel said.

Still transgender adults represent roughly around 0.5 percent of the entire U.S. population, he said, which makes it significant case on studying how a democracy treats a small minority population.

"The broader context in any type of representative democracy is it's important to know and understand how groups are represented," Haider-Markel said.

People outside a minority group certainly can in public office represent that group's interest effectively, he said, but it's much easier to infer that a member of that group could best represent that group's interest.

"How likely is it that a member of that group can achieve elected office and pursue interests of the or another minority group?" Haider-Markel said. "That is a significant question in a representative democracy."


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More information: Donald Haider-Markel et al, Bringing "T" to the table: understanding individual support of transgender candidates for public office, Politics, Groups, and Identities (2017). DOI: 10.1080/21565503.2016.1272472
Citation: Transgender political candidates still likely face an uphill battle, study finds (2017, February 21) retrieved 18 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-02-transgender-political-candidates-uphill.html
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Mar 01, 2017
Eventually they'll realize that no minority deserves greater representation than any other simply because they're small and different, and that all interest group agendas aren't achievable simultaneously, and that the good of the many has a moral priority over the good of the few, so that some small group can't dictate to everyone else how to behave.

It seems to work that way when the minority group is someone who you are politically correct to hate, such as working age white heterosexual men, who are only 20% of the population.

See what I did there? You can always pick an issue and use it to outline a minority out of just about anyone, and then demand special powers and positive discrimination to said group of people under the claim that they're being systemically oppressed by the majority so they deserve special treatment to level the outcomes.

But, every individual is a minority, and the general idea is that everyone is equal under the law.

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