Survey by FHSU's Docking Institute shows support among Kansas voters for LGBT rights

04/27/15 ks
A study completed recently for the Reformation Project by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University regarding opinions on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and opinions on same-sex marriage issues shows Kansas voters believe it is wrong to discriminate against gay and transgender people, but they also value religious faith and reject attempts by some to push their beliefs onto others.

In the conclusion to the report, Dr. Chapman Rackaway, a Docking Fellow and an FHSU professor of political science, found that Kansans are largely divided on support for gay marriage, civil unions or neither.

The poll found that Kansas voters are divided on same-sex marriage rights, with 49 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed. But a strong majority of Kansans support legal recognition for same-sex couples: 42 percent support full marriage; 31 percent support civil unions; and only 23 percent support no formal recognition.

When prefaced with the condition that churches would never be required to perform same-sex marriages, respondents' support jumps to 60 percent.

"The data also show that Kansas voters reject discrimination against gay and transgender people," Dr. Rackaway found. "Two-thirds of voters would support a law that protects gay and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace and strong majorities reject legislation that would allow discrimination by state workers and private businesses."

Dr. Rackaway also found that "church attendance frequency and political partisanship were predictors of support or opposition to gay and transgender rights, as well as legislation to protect them. Except for full allowance of gay marriage, even the most frequent church attendants showed support for limited LGBT rights at least. Perhaps the most significant finding in the data is that the largest response group and the group most likely to form the hardest opposition to legal protections for LGBT rights, conservative Republicans, is widely split on a number of issues. Most conservative Republicans see discrimination as a problem, and nearly as many oppose allowing discrimination against gay and transgender people as support it."

Some of the key findings from the survey:
• More than two-thirds (70 percent) of respondents favor a state law that would provide workplace protections for LGBT individuals.
• When given options to support full marriage rights for same-sex couples, civil unions or no legal recognition at all, most supported full marriage rights at 42 percent, with civil unions at 31 percent and no recognition at 23 percent.
• Same-sex marriage divided the respondents nearly evenly, with 49 percent in favor either strongly or somewhat and 47 percent opposed to same-sex marriage rights.
• When provided the qualifier that churches would never be required to perform same-sex marriages, support for allowing LGBT individuals to legally marry jumped to 60 percent.
• A majority of respondents (55 percent) opposed House Bill 2453 in 2014 that would have made LGBT discrimination legal for private business and government. Just over one-third (35 percent) supported the bill.
• More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents opposed a hypothetical bill that would allow government employees who object on religious grounds to deny services to gay couples. Just under one-sixth (14 percent) supported such a bill.
• Almost three-quarters (74 percent) would also oppose a bill that would allow businesses and government employees to refuse to recognize married gay couples and thus deny them family leave, medical information or pensions. Less than 20 percent supported such a bill.
• A majority (56 percent) opposed and just over a third (36 percent) supported a bill that would allow private businesses to refuse service to gay couples and other LGBT individuals if they believed doing so violated their religion.
• Exactly three-quarters believed that businesses should not be allowed to discriminate against LGBT or other persons regardless of race, religion or other criteria. Just over one-fifth (21 percent) supported allowing businesses to discriminate.
• Almost 70 percent of respondents would not support the re-election of their state legislator if he or she had voted for a bill that would have allowed the religious-based LGBT discrimination to take place, while 17 percent would be more likely to support re-election. However, the support was soft, as a majority of those supporting the re-election of said legislator indicated they would not actively campaign for their re-election (56 percent), while among those who would vote against said legislator, 56 percent said they would not actively campaign against their re-election.
• Most respondents (91 percent) believe that religious and cultural diversity are important elements that have flourished due to Constitutional protection.
• Almost three-quarters of respondents were equally divided in believing that discrimination against an LGBT individual is either a major or minor problem. In comparison, 24 percent of respondents said that LGBT discrimination was not much of a problem or none at all.
• Respondents were evenly divided among whom they trusted most for information on LGBT discrimination. Just under one-fifth look to friends and family (20 percent), while 15 percent said church leaders, and 11 percent said gay and lesbian couples themselves.
• Respondents who indicated a party identification were evenly divided by party and faction, with 28 percent self-identified as conservative Republicans, 20 percent moderate Republicans, 27 percent independent, and 22 percent Democrats. Overall, about half of these respondents indicated that they would vote against their party if another party better represented their views.
• Relationships between political partisanship and attitudes toward LGBT discrimination were more pronounced than relationships between church attendance and LGBT discrimination attitudes, suggesting that politics is a stronger driver of opinions than religious beliefs.
• Conservative Republicans were not only the largest group of respondents, they displayed a split that was not evident among any other ideological self-identification. Conservative Republicans are divided between support for and opposition to LGBT discrimination laws.

The Docking Institute conducted the survey for The Reformation Project, a Christian advocacy group for gay and transgender issues. The samples included Kansas landline telephone numbers and cell-phone numbers, so as to reach a representative sample of likely voters. The data were collected using a highly advanced computer-assisted telephone interviewing system and highly trained survey interviewers recruited mostly from the FHSU student population.

Data for the survey were collected this year from Jan. 21 to Feb. 5. The survey interviewed 700 respondents, which at the 95-percent confidence level, yields a margin of error for the full population of +/- 3.8 percent. As a result, it can be ascertained that the responses gathered from the sample population provide an extremely good indication of the opinions of all registered Kansas voters.

The complete survey report is available online at www.fhsu.edu/docking.

About The Reformation Project
The Reformation Project exists to train Christians to support and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Through building a deep grassroots movement, The Reformation Project strives to create an environment in which Christian leaders will have the freedom to take the next steps toward affirming and including LGBT people in all aspects of church life.

About the Docking Institute of Public Affairs
The primary mission of Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs is to facilitate effective public policy decision-making among governmental and non-profit entities. To that end, its main services include survey and focus group research, economic impact analysis, public policy analysis, and strategic planning.

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