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What Americans Get Wrong About Transgender People

What Americans Get Wrong About Transgender People

The majority of Americans think there are more people in the U.S. who identify as transgender than there actually are, exclusive polling conducted on behalf of Newsweek shows.

In a survey of 1,500 eligible voters in the U.S. by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on April 30, a combined 61 percent estimated that 1 percent or more of the population identified with a different gender to the one they were born with—despite recent studies finding the true number to be far lower.

With transgender rights and inclusion rapidly becoming a hot topic and culture-war battleground, the results suggest many have been influenced by discussion in the media and in politics to think trans individuals present a larger ratio.

People wave a Transgender Pride flag as they attend the 2023 LA Pride Parade on June 11, 2023 in Hollywood, California. A poll for Newsweek has found that most Americans overestimate the number of transgender people in the country.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Some 42 percent of those asked thought trans issues received too much media attention, while just 19 percent felt they did not receive enough. 46 percent disagreed with the statement: “Almost nobody is talking about trans issues.”


Many politicians and commentators have railed against what they see as transgender ideology, which they argue indoctrinates younger people into thinking they are in the wrong body and should seek life-altering treatments.

There are also concerns about transgender individuals in women-only spaces and sporting categories.

At the same time, transgender rights advocates argue that wider acceptance is needed, as trans individuals face threats to their safety and an increasing number of proposed laws limit trans rights and access to healthcare.

Meanwhile, brands such as Bud Light and Target have faced calls for boycotts for marketing themselves towards transgenders. In both cases, by appealing to the LGBTQ+ community, the companies have been accused of alienating their traditional customer bases.

According to the poll, 22 percent of adult Americans think between 1-3 percent of the population is transgender, 18 percent thought between 3-5 percent is, and a further 21 percent think the transgender population makes up more than 5 percent of the total populous.


Some 16 percent believed, correctly, that fewer than 1 percent identifies as transgender, while the remaining 23 percent said they did not know.

A June 2022 study by the UCLA Williams Institute found that in the U.S., around 0.5 percent of adults identify as transgender—equivalent to 1.3 million people—with the number being slightly higher, 0.6 percent, among those aged 13 and above.

A February 2017 study in the American Journal of Public Health, which aggregated 12 surveys from 2007 to 2015, estimated there are around 1 million transgender adults nationwide—roughly 0.31 percent of the population.

The earlier study suggested there had been a more than doubling of the transgender population in the time period it had covered, but the Williams Institute report argued that the number “has remained steady over time.”

Gender identity is not recorded on the U.S. census and many official documents, so the true number has not yet been fully quantified.


Beginning in 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau began recording sexual and gender orientation on its Household Pulse Survey, which found around 0.6 percent of U.S. adults identified as transgender. However, this excluded male-born individuals who identified as strictly female and female-born people who identified as male.

Just 8 percent of respondents to Newsweek‘s poll said they personally knew someone who identified as transgender, while 89 percent said they did not.

Trans rights and inclusion are proving to be deeply polarizing issues. A 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 38 percent of Americans believe society had gone too far in accepting trans people, while 36 percent said it had not gone far enough.

Echoing their findings, the poll found 45 percent of U.S. adults described themselves as a supporter of transgender rights, while 39 percent did not. 16 percent said they did not know either way.

Published: 2023-06-14 17:51:56


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