Americans are divided on the debate regarding which public restrooms and locker rooms that transgender people should be allowed to use, according to a new CBS/New York Times poll released Thursday. President Barack Obama's Administration recently issued guidelines to all public schools directing them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, with an implied threat of a loss of federal funding if not followed. This poll, which was conducted after the directive was issued to schools, surveyed 1,300 adults.
The public is sharply divided along age, party and education lines over whether transgender people should be allowed to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity rather than their gender at birth, indicates the poll.
Forty-six percent of poll respondents agree with laws, such as the one in North Carolina, which require transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex, while 41 percent of poll respondents said they should use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
While they are divided on the issue, nearly 6 in 10 Americans said the decision should be left up to state or local governments.
When CBS conducted a similar poll about public restrooms during March 2014, most Americans, at 59 percent, weren't comfortable with the idea of transgender students picking which bathroom or locker room to use, and thought they should use the facilities of the gender they were born as, while 26 percent thought they should be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their preferred gender.
The president's current position, which is that the issue is a matter of overall civil rights requiring federal intervention, is backed by just 51 percent of Democrats, while more than three quarters of Republicans said they believe it's a local matter, reports The Hill.
"No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus," John King Jr., the secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement. "We must ensure our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence."
The letter to school districts had been in the works for months, Justice Department officials said to the New York Times.
The new poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. It was conducted through both landline and cell phones.
While the public narrowly disagrees with the Obama Administration's stance on transgender rights and the restroom policy, Obama's overall job approval rating, at 50 percent, is at its highest level in more than three years, reports the New York Times.