(CN) – Transgender issues are a high-profile political topic in the United States and Americans’ stance on whether it is possible for someone to be a different gender than their sex at birth remains divided along partisan lines, according to a new study.
Based on a survey of more than 4,500 people from Sept. 14 to Sept. 28, Pew Research Center said Wednesday that 54 percent believe that whether a person is a man or woman is determined at birth, whereas 44 percent say people can adopt a gender different than their sex at birth.
The divide in beliefs widened between Democrats and Republicans: 64 percent of Democrats believe that gender can change after birth, and 80 percent of Republicans say that whether someone is a man or woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth and cannot change, according to the survey.
Within party affiliations, educational background did not appear to make any significant difference among Republicans. Among Democrats, Pew researchers found that those with a bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely than other Democrats to say a person’s gender can be different from their sex at birth.
Seventy-seven percent of Democrats with at least a bachelor’s degree showed support for gender changes, while 60 percent of Democrats with “some college” and 57 percent with high school diplomas showed the same support.
Race and ethnicity was also a shifting factor among Democrats, according to the survey.
Fifty-five percent of black Democrats and 41 percent of Hispanics in the party say gender is determined by a person’s sex at birth, compared to just 24 percent of white Democrats.
Pew researchers also analyzed generational demographics on transgender identity beliefs. Millennials, defined as ages 18 to 36, were the only group surveyed that demonstrated majority support for changing one’s gender, at 50 percent.
Older generations all showed a majority support for gender being determined at birth, especially the Silent Generation (72 to 89 years old), at 61 percent, according to the survey. Fifty-seven percent of those in Generation X (ages 37 to 52) said the same, while Baby Boomers (53 to 71 years old) polled at 55 percent.
However, according to the survey, generational gaps disappear when partisan affiliations are taken into account – most Democrats regardless of age say someone can be a man or woman, even if that is different than the sex they were assigned at birth, while most Republicans say the opposite.
Pew also asked survey participants to opine on transgender progress in American society.
Among all adults, 39 percent said that “our society has not gone far enough when it comes to accepting people who are transgender,” 27 percent indicated the shift in acceptance has “been about right” and 32 percent said that progress has “gone too far.”
A majority of Republicans (57 percent) said society has gone too far in transgender acceptance, and a majority of Democrats said society has not gone far enough (60 percent.)
Roughly one-quarter of participants from either party said that transgender acceptance is on par with societal progress overall.
Polling data showed that 52 percent of people who know a transgender person said they would support more progress for transgender acceptance. Those who did not know a transgender person showed only 31 percent support for more progress.
Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said they know a transgender person. Millennials were more likely to report knowing a transgender person (44 percent) than Generation X (36 percent), Baby Boomers (34 percent) and the Silent Generation (21 percent).
Democrats were also more likely (43 percent) to know a transgender person than Republicans (28 percent).
The survey results come during a time of increased scrutiny and debates over transgender issues, including military acceptance and bathroom use.
President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement in a series of tweets July 26 that he was banning transgender individuals from serving in the military.
Trump made the unilateral decision during Defense Secretary James Mattis’ six-month review on military policy regarding transgender service members.
However, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled on Oct. 30 that the transgender military ban could not be enforced pending additional court review.
Republican lawmakers have also been pushing so-called “bathrooms bills” that would require people to use public facilities that match their biological sex. Texas’ effort to pass a bathroom bill died in this summer’s special session. Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill in March repealing his state’s anti-transgender bathroom bill, calling it a first step in repairing the state’s image.
Despite the ongoing debates, four transgender people made history by winning state offices in Tuesday’s election.
Danica Roem, Andrea Jenkins, Lisa Middleton and Tyler Titus won state and local seats in Virginia, Minnesota, California and Pennsylvania, respectively.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of advocacy group GLADD, described the 2017 election as “a victory for so many remarkable LGBTQ candidates, but it was also a victory for inclusion and acceptance.”