Fighting Bias Against LGBTQ People & Rights Might Be Achievable Through Conversation After All, Says Study

While as a whole on the whole we've made amazing progress in terms of LGBTQ rights, we still have a long way to go in terms of equality. But there's good news on that front: A recent study shows that fighting bias against LGBTQ people and rights might be as simple as having actual LGBTQ people and allies talk to voters about the issues. That's right: It appears that simply having an LGBTQ identified person or ally participate in an in-depth, 20 minute, one-on-one conversation about the issues might be what it takes to help reverse anti-LGBTQ sentiment, particularly in voting situations.

The study, which was released in the journal Science, comes from Stanford University Assistant Professor David Broockman and University of California Berkley graduate student Joshua Kalla. Their background with the subject is actually really interesting: In 2015, the research pair debunked a similar research claim which argued that a 20 minute conversation with a lesbian or gay canvasser could change someone's opinion on same-sex marriage.

How are their findings different from the study they previously debunked? As Kalla explained to Advocate, "We found that canvassers do not need to be members of an affected group to lastingly reduce prejudice against that group. Both transgender and nontransgender allies were effective at reducing prejudice against transgender people." This is a prime example of why it's so important to have allies when it comes to LGBTQ issues.

Let's take a closer look at the research:

The Study

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Researchers analyzed methods developed by the L.A. LGBT Center to see how effective they were in encouraging conservative voters to not vote against LGBTQ issues. Specifically, researchers looked at the Center's method of "deep canvassing," which aims to create a deeper, more meaningful connection with voters by having a sustained conversation and developing a back-and-forth dialogue.

You know those canvassers who knock on your door and basically just want you to sign their sheet and leave? Or those people on the sidewalk who beg you to donate to their organization as you're fleeing across the street? Deep canvassing basically aims to move beyond these more surface-level approaches and go deeper with the individual in front of them, in hopes that the interaction can make a longer-term impact on the voter.

For this study in particular, members of the LGBTQ rights organization SAVE "deeply canvassed" voters in Miami and South Florida. SAVE has a particular interest in raising awareness for issues related to the transgender community. While the Miami area recently passed trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, many in the LGBTQ community want to keep voter support and recognition of transgender issues on the up-and-up, in case a ballot initiative rises in an attempt to repeal the trans-inclusive protections.

The Results

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Broockman and Kalla discovered that "deep canvassing" can reduce feelings of hate and prejudice in one out of 10 voters. To determine this, researchers examined one group of voters who were "deeply canvassed" on LGBTQ issues in comparison to a randomly assigned control group, who instead had a conversation about recycling. And as an added bonus, the researchers also discovered that anti-LGBTQ sentiment appears to be down in general, too.

While it is important to recognize that canvassing may have short-term impacts (as it's difficult to measure how people's views change over extended periods of time), "deep canvassing" definitely seems like an effective way to reach voters before they hitting the voting box. While LGBTQ issues have been widely talked about, and a lot of progress has been made, it's important to remember that there is still loads to be done in terms of equality and protections, especially for the transgender community — but thanks to research like this, I'm hopefully we can get there in the end.

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