To get a sense of global attitudes on transgender rights, BuzzFeed News and the polling firm Ipsos, in partnership with UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute, conducted a one-of-a-kind survey of 23 nations.
The survey was conducted online — from Oct. 21 through Nov. 4, 2016 — in 16 countries with high internet penetration and six countries with lower internet penetration. Ipsos considers the results of these surveys to be accurate within a window of 3.1 to 4.5 percentage points, depending on the size of the sample in each country.
The countries with high internet penetration, where Ipsos considers survey results to be “comparable the general population”:
Argentina (511 respondents)
South Korea (501)
United Kingdom (1,006)
United States (1,000)
Countries with lower internet penetration, where Ipsos considers survey results “not reflective of the general population,” and where respondents tend to be “more urban/educated/income than their fellow citizens”:
Brazil (1,012 respondents)
South Africa (504)
Additionally, we commissioned surveyors to conduct in-person interviews with 610 adults in India, where internet penetration is particularly low. (An online survey for India was also conducted, but we decided — before the results came back — to use the in-person survey results instead because they would be more representative.) These interviews were conducted between Aug. 5 and 29, 2016, which was just before the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented a new draft of a gender identity law to the legislature.
The survey questions, topline results, detailed cross-tabulations, and additional analysis can be found here.
One of the main questions in the survey asked respondents, “How familiar, if at all, are you with people like this?” When we first fielded the survey, in July and August 2016, an unexpectedly high percentage of respondents answered, “I myself am like this” — the first response option available — in some countries. According to the Williams Institute’s Andrew Park, approximately 0.6% of people in the United States identify as transgender, and studies in other parts of the world generally estimate less than 1.3% of the population is transgender. In Peru, 9% of respondents provided this answer; in the US, 12% did.
Ipsos analysts hypothesized that results might have been influenced by the ordering of possible responses — specifically that “the phrase ‘I myself am like this’ is being read too quickly and misinterpreted [...] as a question/scale asking about acceptability of transgenderism rather than proximity to it,” Julia Clark, senior vice president for Ipsos Public Affairs, told BuzzFeed News.
Ipsos tested this hypothesis by re-fielding the question in the US and Peru, with the options randomly presented either in the original order or reverse order. The reverse order placed “I rarely or never see people like this” as the first option, which made “clear [the question] is about proximity,” Clark said.
The results appeared to support Ipsos’s hypothesis — the proportion of “I myself am like this” responses decreased, and respondents didn’t appear to overreport “I rarely or never see people like this” — so we re-fielded the entire online questionnaire in all countries using the reverse response-option order. The reported data and findings use only the results of this re-fielded survey.