*UPDATE* Since May 22, coverage on this topic has increased by more than 1,300 articles and an additional $8.81 million in media value.

A review of press coverage shows that the Texas “bathroom bill” debate generated $216 million in publicity for the state of Texas in the period from Jan. 10, 2016, to May 22, 2017.

During the 85th Texas legislative session, 25,774 local, state and national articles were written about the efforts to pass bathroom and changing room restrictions on transgender adults and children. More than 20,000 of these articles were published outside of Texas.

The media tracking service Meltwater was used to generate the data; its language-detecting algorithm deemed 73 percent of the coverage, or $155.5 million, “neutral,” 25 percent, or $56.4 million, “negative,” and 2 percent, or $4 million, “positive.” A review of coverage categorized as “positive” by the software revealed that these stories largely described efforts by performing artists, businesses, sports organizations and others to protest “bathroom bills.” Overall, the sentiment calculated across all news coverage was deeply negative. The February 2017 spike in sentiment was largely related to a widespread, positive story covering the NBA’s decision to move its All-Star Game from Charlotte to the LGBT-inclusive city of New Orleans.

The topic of bathroom restrictions for transgender Texans has been shepherded into the spotlight by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and vocal anti-LGBT backers like Empower Texans, Conservative Republicans of Texas, and Texas Values.

Texas business leaders and small business owners have consistently cited the war for talent as a major concern related to the state’s anti-LGBT reputation. “HR executives and business leaders voice concern to us when headlines about discrimination dominate the news about Texas,” said Jessica Shortall, managing director of Texas Competes, a coalition of nearly 1,300 Texas employers and chambers of commerce making the economic case for an LGBT-friendly Texas. “We cannot maintain the pipeline of talent needed to fuel this state’s economy in the face of national coverage that tells young workers that Texas is in the business of discrimination.”

In a February UT/TT 2017 poll, a majority of Texans said that it’s “not important” for the legislature to pass a bathroom law. In March, the Public Religion Research Institute released a poll showing that 53 percent of Americans oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth. In a recent USA TODAY poll, Americans aged 18 to 35 — a group representing the current and future talent pool for many Texas employers — oppose bathroom laws by nearly a two-to-one ratio. V

Via Press Release