Most Young Americans Back Same-Sex Marriage, Abortion
Salt Lake Tribune
June 9, 2011
Like their parents' generation, most young Americans believe abortion should be legal.
But unlike their older relatives, most also support same-sex marriage, according to a survey released Thursday by the Public Religion Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization.
Sixty percent of so-called millennials - Americans between ages 18 and 29 - believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a percentage similar to those among Americans between ages 30 and 64. But when it comes to same-sex marriage, 57 percent of millennials support the idea compared with much lower percentages among older Americans.
"In recent election cycles, the so-called 'values voter' agenda has often been distilled to abortion and same-sex marriage. Yet these two controversial topics are no longer necessarily linked in the minds of Americans," according to the report on the "Millennials, Religion & Abortion Survey," which, after 3,000 interviews, claims to be the largest national survey ever on abortion and religion.
According to the report, millennials are different from older generations. They are more diverse, less religious and will likely become the most educated generation in U.S. history. "One of the most politically important ways that millennials differ from other cohorts is their attitudes about gender roles and sexual morality," according to the report.
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."
The survey - with a 2 percent overall margin of error - also examined attitudes toward abortion, not just among various age groups but also among various religions. And though attitudes toward abortion didn't differ much between age groups, they did diverge depending on religion.
Religiously unaffiliated people were the most apt to say abortion should be possible in most or all circumstances, with 67 percent taking that stance. Half of white, mainline Protestants said the same compared with 44 percent of white Catholics and 41 percent of black Protestants.
At the other end, only 23 percent of white, evangelical Protestants and 22 percent of Latino Catholics said it should be possible in most or all cases.
Among Americans who attend church at least once or twice a month, 54 percent said they have heard clergy talk about abortion and 51 percent said they have heard clerics talk about homosexuality, with white Catholics the most likely to hear about abortion in church and black Protestants the most likely to hear about homosexuality.
Veola Burchett, family and pro-life director for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, is not surprised that many Catholics report hearing about abortion in church.
"We believe firmly that all life comes from God," Burchett said, "and we were given the duty to protect what God has created."
Yet 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," 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."
The survey also examined Americans' views on the morality of abortion versus their views on whether it should be legal. According to the survey results, only 40 percent of Americans find abortion morally acceptable, but 56 percent still say it should be legal in all or most cases.
Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, found it striking that, though some Americans may balk at abortion in their own hearts, they still believe it should be allowed for others.
"Where we run into problems," Galloway said, "is people pushing their moral convictions as society's moral convictions."
The survey also found mixed feelings when it comes to abortion, with more than 60 percent identifying themselves, to some degree, as both "pro-choice" and "pro-life."
Only 13 percent of respondents were strongly pro-choice and 12 percent were strongly pro-life.