Millennial Generation is More Supportive of Gay Marriage and Abortion June 10, 2011

Millennial Generation is More Supportive of Gay Marriage and Abortion

The Public Religion Research Institute just released a survey (PDF) that asked people about their views on abortion and same-sex marriage (among other things).

The results indicate some good news!

When it comes to same-sex marriage, more than half of all people (57%) ages 18-29 support it. The numbers go down as the demographics get older.

What does that mean? Despite all the obstacles Christians and Mormons want to put in the path to civil rights, the trend is not in their favor. We’ll have gay marriage, eventually.

Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, said she too has noticed — in her work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual Utahns — that younger generations tend to be more accepting of same-sex marriages.

“Over time, the myths and stereotypes that have been pervasive in our country and around the world about LGBT people are being de-mystified,” Larabee said. “There’s many more of us who have come out, and we’re seen as neighbors and friends and doctors and lawyers and nurses… and people are accepting us.”

As for abortion, the numbers are pretty similar across the board until the age of 64, after which it drops. But at least more than half of the 18-64 crowd says it ought to be legal in all/most cases.

They also asked everyone about their religious beliefs, which allows us to compare the stances on abortion within each religious subcategory.

Once again, those of us without religion should be proud of ourselves.

67% of the “unaffiliated” believe abortion should be legal in all/most circumstances. Compare than with only 23% of white evangelicals who feel the same.

But you have to wonder about the 29% of Catholics and 13% of evangelicals who support abortions in all circumstances. I’m glad they feel that way, but how can they still be part of those churches?

68 percent of Catholics surveyed also said they believe it’s possible to disagree with their church’s teachings on abortion and still be a good Catholic.

“The reality,” [family and pro-life director for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City Veola] Burchett said, “is if you are a practicing Catholic and call yourself a committed Catholic, you cannot disagree with the church’s viewpoint on abortion.”

She’s right. You can’t. I don’t understand why the people who think otherwise continue to attend (and support) a church that goes against their own principles. The church would either change its ways or start to slide into obscurity if the people who knew they were wrong left the institution for good.

(Thanks to Rike for the link)

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  • SlipperyWhenWet

    Percentage of Atheists by age looks similar in slope 😀

  • Christine

    The bigots are dying off. Now if we can just survive the greed and stupidity of mega-corporations and climate-change deniers, maybe there’s some hope for the future of our species.

  • John locke

    A big portion of Catholics follow the religion out of a sense of tradition. They identify as Catholic for cultural reasons more than religious ones. They don’t go to church more than a few times a year(if at all).

    So they have no problem disagreeing with the decrees of the Vatican while still viewing themselves as Catholic.

  • Benjamin

    There was a poll in Germany where people were polled on the 10 central claims of the Apostles ’ Creed separately. This should be the center of their faith as almost every German congregation recites it on every service but only 30% of catholic’s and 21,6% of protestants believed the entirety of it. Source with more detail here (in german though):
    Edit: I should point out the data is old 1989 I doubt that the figures have risen though.

  • Beauzeaux

    I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be part of the 26% and 43% by age group. But it is nice to be among the 51% of unaffiliated.

  • Ceilidh

    A big portion of Catholics follow the religion out of a sense of tradition. They identify as Catholic for cultural reasons more than religious ones. They don’t go to church more than a few times a year(if at all).

    That’s what I was thinking. As someone who was raised in a very Catholic household that wasn’t the case, but most of the Catholics I’ve encountered in my adult life are nominally Catholic at best. It’s more a part of their culture. They’re Irish-Catholic, Italian-Catholic or Polish-Catholic.

  • Richard Wade

    I don’t understand why the people who think otherwise continue to attend (and support) a church that goes against their own principles.

    Many, if not most people have highly compartmentalized minds, like the cubbyholes in an old style post office. Lots of contradictory things can co-exist by not being consciously connected to the others. By being conveniently forgetful about their inconsistencies, people can benefit from both sides of controversies.

    It takes a great deal of self-honesty and hard work to clear away all those partitions, so that everything in your mind can see everything else. Then comes the painful part of tossing out at least half of the contradictory ideas, beliefs and assumptions. This is why homogeneous minds are rare.

  • Miles McCullough

    I understand the temptation to rely on church authorities to state the religious position. One almost has to as clerics are among the few interested enough to bother stating their beliefs in sermons and books and blogs, but ultimately religion is whatever the believers want it to be. It doesn’t matter what the creed says; what matters is what the people who recite the creed believe about it. And thank goodness, cause I’d rather live under the rule of ignorant and disinterested believers than the learned and interested ones.

  • I don’t understand why the people who think otherwise continue to attend (and support) a church that goes against their own principles.

    It may indicate that, contrary to popular perceptions of what religion is or entails, many Catholics see their church not as a dispensary of prescriptions about belief, but rather as the organizer of a class of rituals related to the more central aspects of their faith. Treating a religion as though it were, first and foremost, an ideology makes it easier to engage it in rational debate, but isn’t necessarily reflective of how religion actually functions as a phenomenon.

    The irony here is that the Catholic Church’s historical insistence on doctrinal conformity is partly to blame for our culture’s widespread misconceptions about religion in general. Because Western culture’s experience with religion was, for more than 1,000 years, dominated by a religion that put ritual emphasis on profession of belief, our society has had a different time shaking the association, even when confronted with religions in the “Eastern” tradition that did not hinge on doctrinal purity. The standard reaction (popularized by Nietzsche and mouthed by each of the Four Horsemen) has been to dismiss those less creed-bound traditions as something other than religion.

    The more-or-less conscious decision by many Catholics to remain in the Church while reserving the right to disagree on points of doctrine is actually much more in line with what we observe of religion in general. Agreement on the ideological material that accumulates in a religious tradition over time is generally less important than participation in the rituals associated with the community of faith.

  • Vahdrok

    I’m confused on the data for abortion rights.

    According to the Gallup poll (, a majority of americans still hold that abortion is morally wrong. Now, that is a different question as to whether it should be allowed but if you look at the graph towards the bottom, only 27% say it should be legal in ALL cases. That’s quite a different view from the survey you cite in the original article.

  • PJB863

    A lot of the points about the Catholic church are very valid. If you want to see evidence, just look at all the shuttered/consolidated churches and schools. There was a time when every church had a school, but those are becoming fewer and fewer.

    The Chicago suburb I grew up in had one Catholic church. When I was a kid, there were two sanctuaries – one large and one smaller. Masses on Sunday were said in the main sanctuary from 6 a.m. until noon on the hour, in the smaller sanctuary from 6:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. on the half hour. There was also the hangover mass at 4:30 p.m. Later on, they added a 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. mass on Saturdays. Today, the town still only has one church, but there are only three masses on Sunday, and one on Saturday. The smaller sanctuary was torn down years ago. The school is barely hanging on. The convent hasn’t been used in years, and the rectory that used to house 4 – 5 priests, now houses 2 or 1, depending on staffing levels. Keep in mind, this is a community that has quadrupled in population and size since I was a kid.

    I look at my siblings and cousins – 12 of us in all. We all attended church when we were kids, as did our parents. One cousin attends mass regularly and another sporadically. One aunt/uncle pair still attend. My parents quit attending years ago, and the other aunt/uncle pair a few years later – after their kids were grown.

    Part of this may be cultural, but neither of our grandparents were immigrants, although all our great grandparents were.

    At some point in the next couple of decades, the catholic church in the U.S. will be about as it is in France or Belgium, which is barely. Except here, there are no government moneys to support it.

  • PJB863

    make that, “be about as well attended as it is in France or Belgium”

  • Robin

    Anybody notice that the people least supportive of reproductive freedoms by age are the folks who are quite unlikely to have to worry about it, 65+?

  • It could be getting more conservative as you get older (or in other words do you have the opinions on these issues from when the 30-49 were 18-29?). Although this won’t count for it all it probably has some effect, maybe the acceptance of these is going down in the older generations too. Sorry this is a random thought jumbling of thoughts about predicting the future from the first statistic. Although the statistical effects I speak of probably would be unable to account for most of the increase. Over all I would encourage your amount of optimism.

  • Kandy

    I wonder when these younger, more accepting generations will come into some political power and if and when they do, do you think, will they pander to the old-fashioned, unrealistic “ideals” on which present politicians are so willing to promote as the saviors of our country (USA). I want to believe they will step up, but factions of this country are proudly unintellectual and incapable of critical thinking (I say this as a teacher). State after state, prayer in public, governmental venues and anti-abortion (and, I think, anti-women) are being passed, signed. My mother always reminds me when I rant about the loss of civil liberties and critical thinking at the hands of evangelical christianity, that, “oh, that’s just a fringe, that’s not all of us, so you’re being unfair.” I remind her that the moderates aren’t doing squat, and it will all impact someone we love IN REAL LIFE. How long, do you guys think, will it take to undo the legislative and social damage this group is causing? I genuinely want to know what you think because I am very concerned.

  • ButchKitties

    There’s a fair amount of variation between parishes, at least in America. It’s easy to compartmentalize if you belong to a parish with an uninvolved priest. I know at my parent’s parish, the priest says Mass and the parishioners run everything else. The priest is ancient. He’d retire but there’s no one to replace him. The only time anti-abortion sentiment is made is once a week, in a monotone, during the “Dear God we want to pray for world peace, Stan Reilly’s cancer, end abortion/the death penalty, and we want a pony. Amen,” part of Mass. Birth control is practiced openly. The days of six to ten kid families being common is over.

    There’s a shortage of priests. Their trust capital has bottomed out due to the child abuse scandals. Their power to meddle in the private lives of their parishioners is fading fast, if they’re even interested in trying. The Vatican is losing it’s ability to enforce conformity.

  • Earl

    like Beauzeaux

    I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be part of the 26% and 43% by age group. But it is nice to be among the 51% of unaffiliated

    If also frustrates me that my cousin, who agrees with me on so many different issues, opposes both gay marriage and abortion because of his Mormon faith. I did get him, at least in one case, to admit that the mother’s life is MORE important than that of the fetus, however it was a 10 year pregnant with twins resulting from a rape by her father.

  • Daniel

    The categories are based on self-identification, not attendance. My parents self-identify as Catholic, but don’t attend a church or give to a church. They don’t pray or do anything religious either, but for some people over a certain age being Catholic is as much a tribal thing as a religious thing. They don’t care what the Pope says about anything, and generally think that he’s a terrible person.

  • Brooke

    I feel so lucky to live in a progressive area, but sad that the poll didn’t survey any younger kids. My high school conducted a poll that showed 77.3% of the students are pro-choice and as an observation people who are against gay marriage tend to stay quiet about it because they are the minority. I wish the rest of America could be more like this.

  • thebigJ_A

    I live in Boston. It’s a liberal town, and the dominant religion happens to be Catholic. I was a Catholic myself until I was old enough to think for myself.

    A lot of the Catholics around here are pro-choice and pro gay marriage (which is legal here, I’m proud to say), my mother for one. The attitude seems to be that you can pick and choose which teachings of the church you like and which you don’t, but still consider yourself Catholic.

    There’s no logic to it, so I can’t explain it. Maybe it has something to do with the church no longer being able to torture heretics. That’s what these so-called Catholics are, but they won’t admit it to themselves.

  • People don’t give a shit if doctrine contradicts their views. Most will never even know or realize it. I think it’s generally a post-hoc rationalization issue. People don’t realize their just self-justify whatever the hell they want. Growing up Catholic just means they identify moral standards with Catholicism, whatever their personal standards may be.

  • Pro-Life Pro-Gay Atheist

    I’m an pro-gay atheist and strongly pro-life. People have a irrational view that if they are not religious they must be “pro-choice”. It is impressive how easily they believe in pro-choice propaganda that if you’re modern you have to be pro-choice, not “pro life like those ignorant christians”. People support the killing of INNOCENT HUMAN BEINGS just because it’s against conservatives. They don’t even think about it.

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