Millennials Promise Brighter Future for Gay Rights
Millennials, those aged between 18-29, are much more accepting of LGBT rights when compared to those 65 and over, says the Millennials, Religion & Gay and Lesbian Issues Survey carried out by Public Religion Research that was released this week.
Among Millennials, more than 6 out of 10 (62%) favor allowing same-sex marriage, 69% favor same-sex couples jointly adopting children, 71% support civil unions and 79% back LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination legislation.
This compared to seniors where only 1 in 3 say they favor same-sex marriage (31%). Seniors also reported lower support for same-sex parent adoption (31%).
However, while seniors also offered a lower level of support for civil unions when compared to their younger counterparts, a majority report they favor granting same-sex couples access to civil unions (51%), while 58% also say they support nondiscrimination legislation for LGBTs.
The survey was designed and conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and funded by the Arcus Foundation. Results of the survey were based on 3,000 bilingual (English and Spanish) telephone interviews, including 1,000 cell phone interviews, conducted between July 14 and July 30. The margin for error is +/- 2% for the general sample and +/- 4.5% for the 18-29 year-old group at the 95% confidence level.
How support breaks down across the various demographics in this survey is also encouraging.
Around 49% of young self-identifying Republicans support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Only 19% of Republican seniors say they support such a move. That figure outstrips the general level of support among Republicans as a whole which stands at 31%.
Also of key interest may be that 44% of white evangelical Millennials also support same-sex marriage, compared to 12% of seniors, and far exceeding the general consensus among evangelicals which is at 19%.
Broadly speaking, other points of interest are that a majority (51%) of Americans now believe supporting same-sex marriage is the more socially acceptable position, and that most Americans accept LGBTs face difficulties in living life openly (51%).
Interestingly, 69% of Millennials say that religious groups are alienating younger adults by being too judgmental of gay and lesbian people. Over 6 in 10 Americans, including majorities across all major religious groups say that this unfriendly discourse from religious leaders is contributing to the high suicide rate among LGBT teens, either a lot (23%) or at least a little (44%).
So what can we take from this? The study’s authors think that it will mean 2011 will come to be a landmark where a tipping point on LGBT rights support was reached, especially among young conservatives. This seems reasonable given how well established the generational trend is when it comes to LGBT rights issues and also the acceleration that seems to have occurred over the previous couple of years.
However, I remain to be convinced on one of the more general points of discussion this survey has raised: that this spells an impending change among Republican legislators and conservative religious groups. Why? I would rather think that a gatekeeper effect will persist and slow — though not halt — change because, while Millennials may indeed be more accepting, it will be the established party and religious leaders who will be able to dictate the criteria for what makes a good candidate among the younger generation — as such, I would think they are likely to pick only those young people who share their views.
Public support for LGBT rights will perhaps necessitate a gradual weakening of this position until it becomes a non-issue, but the well observed disconnect between public opinion and political will might warn against an over reliance on the Millennials to bring about a change in the LGBT rights landscape in the short term.
That said, there is a great deal of positive news to take from this survey, especially as it seems to highlight the non-too distant prospect of a consensus regarding the need for LGBT equality.
To read the full report, click here.
To read the topline results, questionnaire and methodology, click here.
To read the press release, click here.