Millennials conflicted about abortion, more clear on support for same-sex marriage
PROVO - Jordan Allred grew up in a conservative LDS family in the conservative state of Montana, yet he's quick to admit he sees the world differently than his parents or grandparents do."The culture is sort of evolving," he said. "I think it's getting harder and harder to put labels on things. For the longest time I thought I was conservative, but I believe that I've changed. I can say that I'm a more moderate thinker and believer these days."
The Utah State University senior in his mid-20s is a Millennial, an American between the ages of 18 and 29 who is part of a generation defined by ethnic and racial diversity, high levels of education, lower levels of religiosity, open-mindedness and confident attitudes.
New survey data released today by the Public Religion Research Institute found that most Millennials are like Allred when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage - more open, accepting and supportive than previous generations.
Yet, when it comes to abortion, these same progressive, young Americans have opinions that more closely mirror those of the general population - including their parents.
"The purpose of this study," according to the report, "is to shed some light on this apparent paradox and to explore what role religion and values play in younger Americans' attitudes toward reproductive issues."
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Public support for legal abortion has hovered around 50 percent for the past decade, and is currently around 56 percent.
For Millennials, sixty percent believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with an even higher 68 percent of Millennials believing that abortion should be available in their local communities.
However, one of the most surprising findings from the survey was that only 46 percent of Millennials believe abortion is morally acceptable, said Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute.
"Research both in academia and polls has shown that Millennials, while very liberal on a lot of social issues and sexual issues, have not been as progressive on the issue of abortion," he said. "And there have been a lot of questions on how abortion is different."
In the general population, 40 percent believe that abortion is morally acceptable while 56 percent believe it should be legal in all or most cases, and 58 percent think it should be available in the local community.
"This survey is among the first to point out an obvious truth," said Patrick Whelan, a doctor at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and president of Catholic Democrats. "That most Americans are both opposed to abortion and think that it should be a personal family decision. In other words, most people - including most Catholics -are both pro-life and opposed to the criminalization of abortion."
Yet while Millennials exhibit conflicting feelings on abortion, they are clear on their support for same-sex marriage, and are breaking away from views of previous generations that linked the two issues as comprising the "values-voter agenda."
Among Millennials, 57 percent believe that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry, compared to 42 percent of those in the next generation, and 32 percent in the 50 to 64 age group. Only 26 percent of Americans age 65 and older support same-sex marriage.
And only 41 percent of Millennials (compared to 69 percent of senior citizens) labeled sex between adults of the same gender as morally wrong.
Same-sex relationships weren't talked about 20 and 30 years ago, and if they were, it was generally in a negative light. But today, they are shown in television shows, movies, music and even news in a much more positive and somewhat trendy light, which appeals to the Millennials, who Allred calls very trend-conscious.
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