Millennials

Millennials Conservative About Casual Sex, Liberal About Same-Sex Marriage, Conflicted About A Lot in New Religion and Sexuality Survey

The kids are ... confused.

|

Sky Noir/Flickr

Millennials are conservative about casual sex, conflicted about gender discrimination in the workplace, and liberal on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, according to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). The nonprofit's "Millennials, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Survey," conducted in February, asked a random sample of more than 2,300 American 18- to 35-year-olds about their views on politics, religion, contraception, marriage, and more. 

Let's start with religious freedom, since that's a hot topic right now. The millennials surveyed were significantly more worried about "religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others" (48 percent) than "the government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion" (39 percent). This is evident in views about discrimination laws and the Affordable Care Act. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed favored "laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing," and 72 percent said similarly for transgender people. And 58 percent agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision about contraception coverage in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. 

The vast majority or respondents said contraception should be "readily available on college campuses," though that's the sort of vaguely worded phrasing that effectively means nothing (readily available how? at the school health center? in vending machines?). Unsurprisingly, less than one in ten millennials surveyed said that contraceptive use is morally wrong. Fifty-five percent are in favor of emergency contraception being available without a prescription (it is), and about 18 percent of millennial women report having used emergency contraception themselves. 

corrine klug/Flickr

On casual sex and cohabitation, however, these millennials were more conflicted. Only 37 percent said "sex between two adults who have no intention of establishing a relationship" is morally acceptable, with an equal number considering it morally unacceptable and 21 percent saying it "depends on the situation." Half of respondents said shacking up before marriage is acceptable, with 21 percent saying it depends on the situation. 

Most of the results were broken down by race/ethnicity, allowing for some interesting comparisons. Asians and Pacific Islanders were the most likely to consider casual sex acceptable; blacks were the least likely. Hispanics were significantly more likely to have a transgender friend or relative. White millennial women were more likely to perceive gender bias in the workplace. 

Overall, nearly three-quarters of millennial women surveyed said that women aren't paid equally for equal work, while only 56 percent of millennial men agreed with that statement. And 68 percent of the women agreed that due to historical discrimination, "companies should make special efforts to hire and promote females," a sentiment only 53 percent of the men surveyed supported. Among white millennials the gap on this last question was much wider, with 64 percent of white millennial women agreeing and only 46 percent of white men.

On abortion, millennial women and men showed no significant differences of opinion; these views were much more likely to diverge based on religion and race/ethnicity.

JeffyBruno/Flickr

Those most likely to say abortion should be legal were religiously unaffiliated individuals (79 percent), white non-evangelical Protestants (63 percent), and black non-evangelical Protestants (61 percent). Those most likely to say it should be illegal were white evangelical Protestants (80 percent), Hispanic Protestants (61 percent), and Hispanic Catholics (55 percent). White Catholics were fairly evenly split, with 51 percent saying it should be legal in all or most cases and 49 percent saying it should be illegal. 

Contra the popular misconception that millennials are less pro-choice than previous generations, 55 percent of the people PRRI surveyed said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Nearly identical percentages said that at least some abortion doctors should be present in every community; that we should not make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions; and that under certain circumstances, "having an abortion is the most responsible decision that a woman can make."

"Most millennials are uncomfortable attaching themselves exclusively to the 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' labels that have defined the abortion debates for decades," PRRI noted. Only 25 percent identified as pro-life and 27 percent as pro-choice, while 22 percent said neither label fits and 27 percent said both labels do. [Again, there was little difference between men and women on adopting these labels but significant variances across racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.] Taken together, this poll's abortion questions reflect a tendency for millennials to separate the issues of abortion's legality and its morality. 

On the morality of abortion, 21 percent of these millennials said it is always "morally acceptable," 39 percent said it's morally acceptable in some situations, and 35 percent said it's always "morally unacceptable." 

SFBart in Palm Springs/Flickr

Respondents were more accepting of "sex between two adults of the same gender," which 42 percent said was always okay morally and 38 percent said is never okay. Thirteen percent think it's okay to have gay sex situationally. Nearly two thirds were in favor of legal same-sex marriage, with support was highest among Asians and whites (70 percent and 64 percent) and slightly lower among Hispanics and blacks. 

Four percent of respondents overall identified as gay or lesbian and 1 percent identified as transgender. A little more than half (53 percent) said they had a close friend or family member who was gay, and 14 percent had a transgender friend or family member. Hispanics were significantly more likely to have a transgender friend (17 percent, compared to 8 percent for each of the other groups) or relative. 

A large number of those surveyed identified as "progressive" (57 percent), and just over a third identified as "feminist" (with whites the least likely to say so). Only 34 percent recognized themselves as "millennials."

Despite millennials' reputation as social-media obsessed, only Facebook had a critical mass amongst those surveyed. All but 17 percent used Facebook to some degree, but 56 percent had never used Instagram, 76 percent had never used Tumblr, and 60 percent had never used Twitter. Instagram use was heaviest among Asians and Twitter use was highest among Asians and blacks, with white millennials using both the least. 

The "clicktivism" charges ring true, though: Millennials were much more likely to have signed an online petition (37 percent) or "liked" a political cause on Facebook (28 percent) then to have attended a politcal rally or demonstration (14 percent), donated money to a politcal campaign or cause (12 percent), or contacted an elected official via phone, letter, or email (19 percent). 

Christopher Michel/Flickr

When asked about which issues were "critical," rather than simply "one among many important issues," jobs and unemployment made a strong showing (cited as critical by 54 percent), while same-sex marriage did not. The "growing gap betwen rich and poor" seriously worried 36 percent of all respondents, with wory highest among blacks (45 percent). Blacks were also the most likely to consider the "fairness of the criminal justice system" a critical issue. 

Sexual assault on campus was also a concern, with 60 percent of respondents saying schools aren't doing enough to address the problem and nearly three-quarters say sexual assault is somewhat or very common on college campuses. Nine percent said they had been sexually assaulted themselves, while 34 percent had a friend or relative that had been. Black millennials were twice as likely as Asians to say someone close to them had been sexually assaulted, and more than twice as likely to have been sexually assaulted themselves. 

Overall, a little under a third of the millennials surveyed were married, while 21 percent said they were in a committed relationship, four percent were divorced or separated, and 41 percent were single. Blacks were more than twice as likely to be unmarried than any other group, and also significantly less likely to be living with a partner or spouse. Hispanics were the least likely to be living alone. Overall, 39 percent of the millennials surveyed were living with a partner or spouse, 30 percent at home with parents or guardians, 11 percent by themselves, eight percent with one or more roommates, and five percent in college dormitories. 

For Reason's own coverage of this cohort, check out our special October 2014 millennial issue, where we praise hipster sellouts, parse why millennials are fleeing the major politcal parties, dispel millennial myths, and explore young-adult dystopias

NEXT: Copying the Federal RFRA Won't Make Much Difference in Arkansas

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. OMG. MILLENIAL POLL!

    1. Finally!

  2. NO FAT CHICKS!

    1. Borrowing from sarcasmic (sans numerous pictures)?

      1. Complaining about the second pic.

        1. Now I see, HP… and now that I see I note that she has vast tracts of land.

          1. No, she doesn’t. Her shoulders are bigger than her tits.

  3. Surveys and polls have to be the most widely accepted complete pseudo-science bullshit on the planet. They’re so insanely subjective and distorted by the phrasing of questions, how they’re asked, in what order they’re asked, how anonymous they are, and so on. And yet people treat them as if they weren’t voodoo baloney, most often because there will be some poll, somewhere, that reinforces a person’s biases and beliefs.

    Polls are even lower that “social science” studies. That’s…insanely bad.

    1. I don’t know. I think there is some reasonable debate to be had about whether polls or social science studies are the more pointless and meaningless.

      The big problem with polls is that people tend to take them more seriously.

      1. We should take a poll about which one people think is more meaningless. Then ignore it.

        1. You do the polling, I’ll do a social science study contrasting the effectiveness in polling vs. social science research in changing public policy.

    2. How dare you insult Emily Elkins like that! I challenge you to a duel!

      1. I would never insult her! Just what she does! There’s a difference!

        1. No they’re isn’t. Emily was born to be a pollster. Your not one of those wackos who thinks becoming a pollster is a CHOICE, are you?

          1. “Emily was born to be a pollster.”

            And brighten the world with her smile.
            Have you ever seen that woman smile?

            Ahem… “And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair, or seen Emily Elkins smile.”

          2. When I think of women who are born pollsters (Epi’s Mom), I normally picturing a brass pole from floor to ceiling.

            In some cases it’s actually cast iron sewer drain pipe in a basement (Epi’s Mom).

            1. No, no, man, you have which pole all wrong. My mom likes the pole and the hole. If you know what I mean.

              1. It’s because she’s a hermaphrodite, with fully functional male AND female genitalia.

                She also has a goiter so big she had to get it tennis lessons, but that’s not related to the topic at hand.

        2. That sounds an awful lot like “I love gay people, as I love all people as my neighbor. I just don’t want to serve cake at their wedding.”

          And they all want cake at their wedding.

          1. But why do they all seem to want cake from a bakery that doesn’t want to sell them cake? It seems very defeatist.

            1. Vengeance is a dish best served with frosting.

            2. Because SSM and the broader gay rights agenda has, for most of its activists (with obvious exceptions like our very own commentators), never been about rights or liberties. It has always been about being transgressive and sticking it to those crazy skydaddy worshippers, to the point where they now want to strip them of their rights.

              1. “transgressive?” Are you microagressing against hermaphrodites?

    3. “And yet people treat them as if they weren’t voodoo baloney”

      I would try the voodoo bolagna. Sounds tasty.

      1. It turns you into a zombie.

      2. Is that like a bologna donut at Voodoo Donuts?

        1. There only a few other than SugarFree who could’ve dreamt a more provoking motto for them.

    4. ” yet people treat them as if they weren’t voodoo baloney”

      You could pretty much teach people everything they need to know about the bias in sample selection, the wide variance of responses you get from wording, and the meaningless of trying to establish particulars from “averages of a large group”, in a single high-school class-session. It would take about an hour. And it wouldn’t require any math beyond a basic explanation of what a “standard deviation” is.

      Yet people apparently live their entire lives without ever quite grokking how it works. They’re *magic*

      1. oh, the other thing which people seem to be unable to grasp… is the yawning gulf between “stated preference” vs ‘revealed’, actual behavior.

  4. What coursee of action is there whe the staff is trolling the commentariat?

    1. Someone should poll Millennials as to the proper course of action.

    2. Who’s trolling what now?

      1. I’m slightly confused as well…. Is the answer long beards and flannel shirts?
        Or is it he-who-must-not-be-named?

        Wait – its plaid. I just figured it out.

    3. I almost started this post with “just when you thought we were done talking about millennials…” 😉

      1. We already assume you’re trolling us, otherwise you’d have run in fear by now.

        1. Watch out, Elizabeth, hamilton was going to hug Matt earlier.

  5. Thirteen percent think it’s okay to have gay sex situationally.

    What does that mean? Like, when you’re drunk, when you’re having a pillow fight with your sorority sisters and your clothes just happen to come off, those sorts of situations?

    1. I think that’s OK. But I’m not a millennial.

    2. Go on…

    3. Please continue with your hypothetical. Need more data points.

      1. I’ll get back to you after I do some fieldwork.

        1. You are a true scientist and should be proud of your dedication to your craft.

          1. LynchPin,
            I for one am confident you will work long and hard to achieve your goals.

            Never give up, never surrender.

            1. BY GRABTHOR’S HAMMER

              1. Dude, just watched Galaxy Quest last night!

                1. bb,

                  It really is uncanny how many times I’ve watched/thought of a movie I like or listened to a CD and within the next two days see someone here post a reference to it.

                  I also noticed that there have been times when I decided not to post an inane observation or silly comment (usually so as to avoid making too many comments) and later see that someone else has posted something extremely similar to that which I forwent.

                  Was anyone thinking of “Good Luck Chuck”? I started watching it last night.

                  The Cohen Brothers’ “Miller’s Crossing” was Monday.

                  1. You’re never to Jung to experience synchronicity.

    4. I have no idea, which is why it’s kind of funny. (The actual phrasing was it’s morally acceptable “depending on the situation”)

      1. It’s ok if no one finds out.

      2. In all seriousness, I wonder if the situation is casual vs in-a-relationship gay sex.

      3. Just the tip?

      4. Ah, ok, I see the point of confusion then. The millenials misread it; they thought they were being asked if gay sex was acceptable when Mike “The Situation” of Jersey Shore fame is appropriate. “The Situation” is famously astute on matters relating to the circumstantial appropriateness of sodomy.

        1. Corrigendum: …Mike “The Situation” of Jersey Shore fame *says* it’s appropriate. He himself is never appropriate.

          Would an edit button be so much to ask for? Fucking libertarians.

    5. Like, when you’re drunk, when you’re having a pillow fight with your sorority sisters and your clothes just happen to come off, those sorts of situations?

      No. If there’s a train coming and five people are stuck on the tracks and the only way you can save them is by having gay sex…

      1. Ooh, gay-sex torturing terrorists to get them to disclose the location of the dirty bomb…

        1. I’ll show you a dirty bomb…

    6. ” it’s okay to have gay sex situationally.”

      That’s with the eyes closed, right?

    7. Is it when you’re in a three-way and your dick rubs against your friend?

      Asking for a, uh, friend.

      But not that kind of friend.

    8. I gave up trying to figure out Situationalism. I took a guess based on the name, saw I was far off, but then couldn’t pin it down.

  6. But what do the Millennials thi- wait a minute.

  7. Ya know, the millenial poll kinda feels good after all the RFRA riff raff. Wait, that didn’t come out right.

    1. I was thinking along the same lines… A millenial poll, thank God!

  8. It’s about fucking time!

    1. That’s an interesting idea. Are liberal arts majors more likely to be down with casual sex because they have fucking time?

  9. . Only 37 percent said “sex between two adults who have no intention of establishing a relationship” is morally acceptable, with an equal number considering it morally unacceptable

    This is where the pollsters should have realized the kids were fucking with them.

    1. the kids were fucking with them

      Were they in a committed relationship?

    2. Yeah, unless “Casual sex” in the Millennial lexicon involves a minimum of three parties, a bag of molly, a Costco jug of honey, a complete set of Martha Stewart spatulas, a modified child’s swingset and some combination of barnyard animals, I’m calling bullshit.

      1. Other than the barnyard animals, that sounds pretty good. No, I take it back, the animals can watch.

        1. Christ, that takes me back.

            1. I love that movie.

              1. Man.

                When Epi is on, Epi is really on.

                1. You can be sure he’s always on… something. Usually it’s his mom (after everyone else has had their turn, of course).

    3. When you realize that casual sex is painted in the light that it’s oppressive to women and anti feminist, it makes sense.

      1. Its not “Casual” as long as you give them a foot-massage first.

  10. “Asians and Pacific Islanders were the most likely to consider casual sex acceptable”

    Really? My own private polling doesn’t back that up at all.

    /joke

    1. private polling

      God still sees what you’re doing

      1. “And from now on, STOP PLAYING WITH YOURSELF!”.

        “It IS God!”

        1. Oh really, hamilton? Well what about that time I found you naked with that bowl of jello?

          1. I think he was quoting “Real Genius” Epi.

            Even so, earlier hamilton was talking about hugging Welch….

            Does Matt like Jello?

            1. UM, I think Epi got it actually.

              And don’t you go othering my attempts to extend an olive branch to the staff! When Postrel was in charge there was REAL staff/commenter respect!

              1. “And don’t you go othering my attempts to extend an olive branch to the staff!”

                hamilton,

                I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.

                Charles

  11. Let’s start with religious freedom, since that’s a hot topic right now.

    Let’s not.

  12. “…a random sample of more than 2,300 American 18- to 35-year-olds…”

    JUST missed the Millennial cutoff.

    *puffs gills in relieved exhalation*

    1. You know you’re getting old when you no longer accrue generations.

      Good to see a fellow member of the Nuclear, Cold War, MTV, X, and Y generations.

      1. I honestly don’t know what I am. Possibly unrelated.

    2. Goddammit, I’m a millenial now?

      1. I just googled it. Apparently the window for Gen-X is born 1965-1980. So this poll is apparently microaggressing against the Gen-Y nomenclature.

        1. So this poll is apparently microaggressing

          Oh you’re definitely a millennial.

          1. Your words are hurtful, Lynch. Please report to the Center for Emotional Mediation Studies so that you can be told how to properly feel so that you don’t other me.

            Goddammit.

        2. I always heard that the gen x window was ’63 to ’82, or IOW from the Kennedy assassination to when Volcker tanned the inflation beast.nn

          1. *tamed. Now I have visions of STEVE SMITH in a tanning salon…

        3. So this poll is apparently microaggressing against the Gen-Y nomenclature.

          Microaggressing?!? By my math, they don’t even regard them as existing!

          1. Math? Why must your accusations of microaggression microaggress?

      2. Yeah me too. Somehow I got lumped in with these whiny neckbeards. That can’t be right. I REMEMBER NIRVANA GODDAMNIT! GET OFF MY LAWN!

        1. I REMEMBER NIRVANA GODDAMNIT! GET OFF MY LAWN!

          WTF?! I must be a million years old.

  13. “Hey, Bob, it’s another Millennial poll! You take it, you’re the only one who hasn’t talked to them yet!”

    “All right, but what do I say?”

    “I don’t know, say you enjoy sex with transsexual bicyclists or something.”

    “Won’t they think I’m messing with them?”

    “Nah, they write it all down and report it seriously. Try it, it’s fun!”

  14. FUCKIN MILLENIALS! YYEEEEAAAAHHH REASON!!!!!!

  15. Overall, nearly three-quarters of millennial women surveyed said that women aren’t paid equally for equal work, while only 56 percent of millennial men agreed with that statement.

    Which should tell you that 44% of male millennials have not checked their privilege at the door.

    Or that almost 75% of millennial women are superstitious. Take your pick.

    1. I bet Gillespie makes more than Shikia.

      1. They said EQUAL WORK. What Shikha does can’t even kind of be called writing.

        1. But she successfully emotes way more than Nick.

          /Patriarchy

    2. I can’t know for sure whether women get paid less for the same work. But I have yet to see a single example where a woman is paid less than a man working for the same company with the same skill level, experience, performance history and job description. Anything else is comparing apples/oranges.

      If you could get away with paying women less for the same work, why wouldn’t there be more companies hiring only women?

      1. Those reasons are all well and good, but you can’t possibly be right: someone is clearly screaming their opinion louder than you.

  16. if a millennial falls in the forest and no one is around, do they still get polled?

    1. STEVE SMITH IS AROUND

      1. They get POLED.

  17. Contra the popular misconception that millennials are less pro-choice than previous generations, 55 percent of the people PRRI surveyed said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

    Of course it must be understood that the category “pro-choice” should not be construed as meaning “pro-liberty”, only pro-“pay for MY abortion, stoopid taxpayer!”

    1. What do you think they think about abortions performed on women who were impregnated due to casual sex?

  18. Only 37 percent said “sex between two adults who have no intention of establishing a relationship” is morally acceptable

    What percent think “sex between two adults who have no intention of establishing a relationship” is nonsensical as “having sex with each other” is a relationship itself?

    1. I’m thinking what they’re saying is the old pump and dump is not morally acceptable.

      1. Maybe it’s not, but it’s still a relationship, albeit a brief one.

  19. Apparently at least 20 some percent or more those surveyed do not understand that they are a religious group trying to impose their beliefs on others.

  20. Do we just like saying the word “millennial”? I mean, it sounds all space-y and whatnot, but FFS. If you think millennials are narcissistic navel-gazers maybe it’s because everyone always interrupts their microaggression awareness bacon-cupcake parties to ask them what they think.

  21. Asians and Pacific Islanders were the most likely to consider casual sex acceptable

    She no love me long time?

    Contra the popular misconception that millennials are less pro-choice than previous generations

    That’s some nice wishful thinking, considering that the “misconception” comes from long-running polling results (particularly from Gallup) indicating exactly that.

    It’s not a huge, earth-shaking movement in polling, but it has been observable.

    Sexual assault on campus was also a concern, with 60 percent of respondents saying schools aren’t doing enough to address the problem and nearly three-quarters say sexual assault is somewhat or very common on college campuses

    College: the rape factory we should encourage all youngsters to attend!

    1. Funny how the less something (e.g. sexual assault/rape) actually occurs, the more of an ‘issue’ it seems to be become.

      Does anyone want to join me in raising awareness about castration culture? Men on college campuses are getting castrated all over the place, castration is ubiquitous, yet almost no victims of castration are willing to come forward because cultural biases and shit, and because, you know, they just don’t have the balls to do it.

  22. The survey keeps mentioning ‘campus’. I’m assuming college campus. So basically, this survey considers college kids the only true representatives of ALL millenials? Considering that’s only 25-30% of all millenials at most, that seems to be a seriously skewed survey.

  23. Only 37 percent said “sex between two adults who have no intention of establishing a relationship” is morally acceptable, with an equal number considering it morally unacceptable and 21 percent saying it “depends on the situation.”

    So… you’re telling me 37% will have sex with me no-strings-attached while sober and another 20% when drunk?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.