Californians Divided on Pronoun Use in School

California is working to establish a policy for transgender youth, and lawmakers, school boards and parents are considering issues like using preferred names and pronouns. Californians are generally divided on allowing public schools to accommodate a student’s request to use pronouns that differ from their biological sex, according to the April PPIC Statewide Survey.

In May, an initiative failed to qualify for the November ballot, which proposed a statewide policy requiring schools to notify parents of a child’s gender identity and banning medical services that support transgender youth — also known as gender-affirming care. Just weeks later, the California legislature passed AB1955, a law that bars schools from telling parents if their child prefers to use a different name and pronoun than the ones given at birth without first getting the child’s consent.

Among Californians surveyed about pronoun use in schools, there are wide differences by party, region and demographic group. Seven in 10 Democrats support schools allowing students to use different pronouns, while more than eight in 10 Republicans oppose it. Independents are more divided, but tend to oppose the policy.

Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area (60%) are the most likely of any regional group to support schools allowing students to choose their pronouns, while residents of the Central Valley and Inland Empire are the least likely (both 39%). Asian Americans (57%) stand out as the only racial or ethnic group with majority support.

Support for this approach declines with age and increases with education level. Sixty-four percent of 18- to 34-year-olds support it, compared with just 40% of Californians 35 and older. A large majority of college graduates (60%) support the approach, while a similar share of those without a college degree oppose it (57%). Interestingly, parents of children in public schools are almost evenly split (51% oppose; 48% support).

Overall, there is no consensus among Californians on transgender issues in public schools. Nearly half of Californians support or oppose the following measures, according to the survey: allowing students to use pronouns other than their biological sex, allowing lessons on transgender issues (46% support, 53% oppose), and allowing storybooks about transgender youth (50% support, 49% oppose). Americans are less likely than Californians to support all three of these ideas, according to a January 2024 national YouGov poll.

Transgender youth issues also relate to tensions between parental rights and the rights of minors, as parents and children may have different views on how to ensure mental and physical well-being in their homes and communities.

The PPIC Statewide Survey is designed to monitor California residents’ attitudes toward social issues and legislation developed by the state government in those areas.