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Blog Post · July 10, 2024

Californians Are Split on Pronoun Use at School

photo - Students at Desks in Classroom Writing in Notebooks

California has been working on establishing policies related to transgender youth, with lawmakers, school boards, and parents weighing in on issues such as the use of preferred names and pronouns. Californians overall are 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 that  proposed a statewide policy requiring schools to notify parents of a child’s gender identity and banning health services to support transgender youth—also known as gender-affirming care. Just weeks later, the California Legislature passed AB1955, legislation that prohibits schools from telling parents if their child prefers to use a different name and pronoun from those assigned at birth, without first gaining the consent of that child.

Among the Californians surveyed on the question of pronoun use in schools, large differences emerge by party, region, and demographic groups. Seven in ten Democrats support schools allowing students to use different pronouns while more than eight in ten Republicans oppose. Independents are more split but lean toward opposing this policy.

Residents in the San Francisco Bay Area (60%) are the most likely among regional groups to support schools allowing students to choose their pronouns while those in the Central Valley and Inland Empire are the least likely to be supportive (39% each). Asian Americans (57%) stand out as the only racial or ethnic group with majority support.

Support for this approach falls with age and rises with education level. Sixty-four percent of 18- to 34-year-olds support it compared to only 40% of Californians 35 and over. A solid majority of college graduates (60%) support the approach while a similar share of those without a college degree oppose it (57%). Notably, public school parents are split almost evenly (51% oppose; 48% support).

Overall, there is no consensus among Californians on transgender issues in public schools. According to the survey, close to half of Californians either support or oppose the following: allowing students to go by pronouns that differ from their biological sex, allowing lessons on transgender issues (46% support, 53% oppose), and allowing books with stories about transgender youth (50% support, 49% oppose). According to a January 2024 national YouGov poll, Americans are less likely than Californians to support all three of these ideas.

Transgender youth issues also represent tension between parental rights and the rights of a minor, where parents and children may disagree on how to achieve mental and physical well-being in their homes and communities.

The PPIC Statewide Survey is committed to tracking Californians’ attitudes on social issues and the legislation the state government develops in these areas.


K–12 Education parents Political Landscape public schools Statewide Survey