Young people are often assumed to be progressive, especially when it comes to gay rights. But a new study reveals that acceptance of the LGBTQ community by adults 18 to 34 is falling.
A new Harris Poll commissioned by GLAAD found that 36 percent of respondents in that demographic reported they’d be “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable learning a family member was LGBTQ. That’s up from 29 percent who said the same in 2018.
According to the 2019 Accelerating Acceptance Index, 39 percent would be unsettled by their child learning about LGBTQ history in school, compared to just 30 percent in 2018. And finding out their doctor was LGBTQ made a third (34 percent) uncomfortable—an uptick from 27 percent last year.
“The younger generation has traditionally been thought of as a beacon of progressive values,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “We have taken that idea for granted.”
Conducted online earlier this year, the poll quizzed 1,970 U.S. adults on their comfort level with seven theoretical situations: Learning a family member is LGBTQ, learning their doctor is LGBTQ, having LGBTQ members at their place of worship, seeing a LGBTQ co-worker’s wedding picture, having their child placed in a class with a LGBTQ teacher, seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, and learning their child was learning LGBTQ history in school.
The number of young Americans who were comfortable across all seven situations dropped from 53 percent in 2018 to 45 percent this year, the second consecutive dip for the age bracket.
Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema admitted surveys typically show younger people advocating for issues like immigration reform, gender equality and climate change. “So it’s surprising to see a notable erosion of acceptance for the LTBTQ community, which counters many of the assumptions we make about their values and beliefs,” Gerzema said in a statement. “In this toxic age, tolerance––even among youth––now seems to be parsed out. Nothing today should be taken for granted.”
Some 43 percent of young males said they’d be uncomfortable learning a family member is LGBTQ (up from 32% in 2018). But, GLAAD reports, the more significant erosion is being driven by women 18-34, whose overall comfort levels fell from 64 percent last year to just 52 percent in 2019.
It’s not entirely clear what’s fueling the downturn, but Ellis believes, “the sharp and quick rise in divisive rhetoric in politics and culture” is poisoning younger minds. President Trump has routinely targeted LGBTQ Americans since taking office—from supporting adoption agencies that deny gay couples to suggesting trans people “take massive amounts of drugs” as a rationale for barring them from military service.
According to the FBI, reported hate crimes rose 17 percent in 2018, the third consecutive increase.
Still, overall support for equality remains high: Eight out of ten Americans believe in equality for LGBTQ Americans, a rate that’s held steady since 2016. The Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil-rights legislation, passed the House last month. It now faces a tough battle in the GOP-controlled Senate.
*see full story by NEWSWEEK