The Public Religion Research Institute just released a broad survey they conducted among 2,314 adults born between 1980 and 1997, and the aggregate of my generation's social opinions feel—as they tend to—alternately progressive and tremendously retrograde.
For example, on the one hand, 47 percent of millennials surveyed here affirm that transgender people face significant social stigma; on the other, almost as many millennials believe abortion should be illegal in most cases as the number who believe it should be legal in most cases—27 percent and 33 percent, respectively. (And, 80 percent of white evangelical Protestant millennials state a belief that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases; can't wait for more of those people to hold public office!)
Opinions on almost everything in this survey are meaningfully delineated by race and gender: for example, 64 percent of white millennials believe "the country has gotten off on the wrong track," and 71 percent of black millennials believe "the country is moving in the right direction." (The margin of disagreement is smaller among Hispanic millennials, of whom 53 percent are down with 2015 America, and Asian millennials are almost exactly split down the middle.)
In some cases, the disparity comes down to political affiliation, too: only 50 percent of Republican millennials think that "women get fewer opportunities than men" in the workplace, as opposed to 70 percent of Democratic millennials.
Another very interesting finding is that 40 percent of white millennial women think sexual assault is "very common" on college campuses, as opposed to 26 percent of white millennial men—and there are "no similar intensity differences between black and Hispanic men and women." That disconnect—and its racial dimension—is becoming increasingly more obvious and consequential in the clusterfuck issue of college sexual assault justice reform.
However, the most fascinating thing to me in this survey was the conservatism still hovering around attitudes towards sex. An astonishing 41 percent of respondents said sex between teens was morally wrong regardless of the situation—this despite the fact that almost 50 percent of American high school students have had sex. (Prudish hypocrisy, or the former virgins being mad at the kids who got around, or a voting bloc comprised of the 34 percent of white evangelical Protestant millennials who have never taken a sex ed class?)
Then, 38 percent think sex between two adults of the same gender is morally wrong at all times—a number that is somehow higher than the 37 percent who think casual sex is always wrong. (You wonder what these people would think of casual sex between gay teens? Maybe they could pull up a girl-on-girl teen porn video and have a come-to-Jesus moment, except about sex and truth-telling?) Anyway, in light of those numbers, I'm almost surprised to see that abortion figures as always-wrong among only 35 percent of respondents.
My primary takeaway: Millennials are small children motivated by fear, otherwise known as adults. You can read the entirety of the (well-designed) PRRI study here.
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