Study: LGBTQ+ Political Candidates Face Discrimination

Political candidate greeting supportersMany voters say they would not vote for a transgender political candidate running for public office, according to a new study published in the journal Politics, Groups, and Identities. The study found both non-heterosexual and non-cisgender candidates face discrimination, but a larger portion of adults say they would not vote for a transgender candidate.

Voter Profile for LGBTQ+ Political Candidates

The study involved a 2015 national survey that asked adults about their willingness to vote for a hypothetical candidate. Thirty percent said they would be unwilling to vote for a non-heterosexual candidate. Discrimination against transgender candidates was more prevalent, with 35-40% of respondents unwilling to vote for a transgender candidate.

The study also looked at which voters were less likely to discriminate against LGBTQ+ candidates. People who were more liberal, affluent, and educated expressed greater support for these candidates. Support was also higher among women and people who expressed fewer religious views. Lead author Donald Haider-Markel suggests this means LGBTQ+ candidates should strategically choose to run for office in more liberal districts, though they could also be successful in some Republican-leaning districts with highly educated voters.

Moving Toward More Acceptance of Transgender Politicians

New Hope, Texas, Mayor Jess Herbst came out publicly as transgender in January 2017. Herbst is likely the first publicly transgender elected official in the state. She began her transition by taking hormone replacement therapy after her election, and she was the appointed replacement when the city’s mayor died in 2016.

Also in 2016, the Philippines—a conservative Catholic nation—elected its first transgender congresswoman.

Transgender individuals comprise about 0.6% of the adult population. Mental health difficulties and discrimination continue to be highly prevalent for trans people. A recent study found 30% of transgender teens and young people have attempted suicide, and about 42% have harmed themselves in some way. Half of trans youth have considered suicide with serious intent.


  1. Haider-Markel, D., Miller, P., Flores, A., Lewis, D. C., Tadlock, B., & Taylor, J. (2017). Bringing “T” to the table: Understanding individual support of transgender candidates for public office. Politics, Groups, and Identities, 1-19. doi:10.1080/21565503.2016.1272472
  2. Hoffman, J. (2016, June 30). Estimate of U.S. transgender population doubles to 1.4 million adults. Retrieved from
  3. Larano, C. (2016, May 11). Philippines elects its first transgender congresswoman. Retrieved from
  4. Transgender political candidates still likely face uphill battle, study finds. (2017, February 21). Retrieved from

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  • jake l

    jake l

    March 10th, 2017 at 1:30 PM

    That happened in my district last year. An openly gay male politician ran for state house and wow, did it ever get ugly with the nonsense that was being put out there about his sexuality.

    The only good thing to come out of it was that I think that the voters in my district saw through all of that nonsense and he actually won.

    A proud moment for me living in the south.

  • Kara


    March 13th, 2017 at 9:28 AM

    Although I think that there is more acceptance now than in the past, this is still a very difficult position to be in when you are not just trying to come to terms with your own sexuality but find that it is to be done in such a public way. You know, there are things that I do in my own life that are no one’s business so why do we necessarily think that this has to be disclosed?

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