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What Americans Think About D.C. Statehood, Anti-Asian Discrimination And LGBTQ Rights

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Once again, we’re switching up the format a little, so please let us know your thoughts on it (or any other form you’d like to see this feature take) by shooting us an email.

How you frame D.C. statehood matters

This week the House of Representatives held a hearing on legislation that would make Washington, D.C., the nation’s 51st state. This has long been a controversial subject, especially since the heavily Democratic city would likely elect two Democratic senators. Older polling has found that at least half of Americans oppose statehood, and that hasn’t really changed much. What is notable, though, is how much question wording can move the numbers — perhaps a sign of how we can expect the two sides to frame this debate.

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Two recent polls asked straightforward questions about D.C. statehood (some form of “Do you support or oppose granting statehood?”) and found the public pretty evenly divided. Forty-nine percent of Americans told Fortune/SurveyMonkey in mid-January that they favored statehood while 45 percent were opposed. For the pro-statehood movement, this is an improvement from some other nonpartisan polling on the topic in 2020, but only slightly. Further complicating the picture, just last week RMG Research found that 35 percent supported statehood compared with 41 percent who opposed it. Hardly what one would call a clear picture of public support. It’s important to note, however, that both pollsters asked a simple yes or no question, meaning there’s little reason to think respondents were primed to answer a certain way.

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That’s not the case with two other recent polls. In a February poll taken on behalf of Democracy for All 2021 Action, which backs efforts to admit D.C. as a state, Data for Progress found that 54 percent of likely voters backed statehood while just 35 percent opposed it. However, DFP told respondents that statehood would give congressional voting representation to more than 714,000 Washingtonians, “just like Americans in every other state,” so this question framing likely primed respondents to be more favorable toward statehood. But it also suggests that stressing equality may help pro-statehood forces gain support. In fact, DFP found that changing the question wording to say D.C. suffers from “taxation without representation” increased the share in favor of statehood to 58 percent.

As for those who oppose D.C. statehood, they might want to take a page out of Rasmussen Reports’ playbook and stress the constitutional objections to making the District of Columbia a state. In February, Rasmussen told respondents that the U.S. Constitution designates the nation’s capital as a federal district, not a state, which may have primed respondents to oppose statehood. The poll’s toplines were nearly the reverse of the Data for Progress poll, with 29 percent supporting statehood versus 55 percent opposing it. Bottom line: How you ask a poll question matters. So, if you hear the two sides of this debate leaning more into these appeals, you’ll know why.

Americans are worried about anti-Asian discrimination

The recent killing of eight people, six of whom were of Asian descent, in the Atlanta area has precipitated a renewed conversation about anti-Asian racism in the United States, which has been simmering off and on since the COVID-19 pandemic sparked an increase in anti-Asian discrimination

A new Harris survey conducted after the Atlanta shooting found that many Americans are concerned. Seventy-six percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about hate and discrimination toward Asian Americans in response to the pandemic.

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Additionally, reports of Asian Americans experiencing discrimination from COVID-19 are rampant. One-quarter of Americans said that in the past month they had witnessed someone blame Asian people for the coronavirus outbreak, according to a USAToday/Ipsos poll. This figure actually represented a decrease from April (just after stay-at-home orders in the U.S. became ubiquitous), when 32 percent told the Center for Public Integrity/Ipsos that they had witnessed such behavior. Nevertheless, the Ipsos poll showed that anti-Asian racism may be worsening in other respects. For instance, the share who expressed concern about being too close to someone of Asian descent not wearing protective gear had shot up from 46 percent to 54 percent, even as the share who said they worried about being too close to anyone not wearing protective gear has not changed significantly since April.

Views on LGBTQ issues are changing

Once a deeply divisive wedge issue that Republicans used to their political advantage, same-sex marriage has now reached an all-time high level of support among all Americans. LGBTQ rights more broadly have experienced a similar wave of support, and a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute gives us further evidence of this trend. 

Overall, 76 percent of Americans said they favored laws to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in the workplace and in housing and public accommodations, which marked a new high for the pollster since it started asking this question in 2015. Notably, majorities of almost all groups of Americans expressed support for such laws, including groups that have traditionally been more critical of LGBTQ people, such as Republicans (62 percent support) and white evangelical Protestants (62 percent). The survey also found that 67 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, including for the first time a slight majority of Republicans (51 percent).

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Given this increased support for LGBTQ rights, it may come as no surprise, then, that Gallup found a record share of adult Americans — about 6 percent — who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in 2020, with many more younger Americans openly identifying as such. There’s still a pretty large age gap, though, in who openly identifies as LGBT.1 About 16 percent of Gen Z adults (born between 1997 and 2002) identified as LGBT, as did around 9 percent of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). However, only about 4 percent of Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and fewer than 2 percent of adults born before 1965 identified as LGBT. Because older Americans may be less comfortable identifying in this way, Gallup notes this may mean the share of Americans who identify as LGBT is actually higher than 6 percent.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,2 54.3 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 39.9 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +14.4 percentage points). At this time last week, 54.0 percent approved and 40.0 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +14.1 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 54.5 percent and a disapproval rating of 38.2 percent, for a net approval rating of +16.3 points.

UPDATE (March 26, 2021, 12:37 p.m.): This article has been updated to remove a reference to a Harris survey question measuring public opinion on the motive behind the Atlanta spa shootings.

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  1. Gallup did not include “queer” or “questioning” as an option in this poll, which is why “Q” is not included in the initialism going forward.

  2. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.