May 4, 2017

Though still conservative, young evangelicals are more liberal than their elders on some issues

Millennials are more likely than older adults to take liberal positions on social and political issues. This generation gap exists even among evangelical Protestants – who constitute one of the country’s most conservative religious groups – in areas including same-sex marriage, immigration and environmentalism.

The gap between younger and older evangelicals is perhaps most noticeable on LGBT issues. Evangelical Protestants who are Millennials (those born from 1981 to 1996) are considerably more likely than older evangelical Protestants to support same-sex marriage and to say homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

In addition, younger evangelicals are more likely than their older co-religionists to favor stricter environmental laws and to say immigration makes the United States better. Similarly, evangelical Protestant Millennials are more likely to favor government aid to the poor and to prefer a bigger government with more services over a smaller one with fewer services. And they are less likely to say they are conservative, while slightly more likely to say they are politically moderate.

That said, by some metrics, including party identification and attitudes about abortion, there is little distinction between young evangelicals and their older counterparts.

For example, Millennial evangelicals are only slightly less likely than older evangelicals to identify as Republican. About half of Millennial evangelicals (51%) identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party in the 2014 Landscape Study, almost on par with the 57% of older evangelicals who said the same. And there is no statistically significant gap at all in the abortion views of older and younger evangelicals: Millennial evangelicals are just as likely as their older counterparts to say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases (65% versus 63%).

And while younger evangelical Protestants are less conservative than older evangelicals in several areas, they remain more conservative than their generational peers in their attitudes regarding all the issues above. For example, while four-in-ten Millennial evangelical Protestants (41%) say homosexuality should be discouraged by society, that opinion is held by just 15% of all other Millennials. And while 65% of Millennial evangelicals say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, only 36% of all other Millennials agree.

Topics: Generations and Age, Political Issue Priorities, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Social Values

  1. Photo of Jeff Diamant

    is a senior writer/editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Becka A. Alper

    is a research associate focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

11 Comments

  1. Packard Day2 months ago

    How did that old political saw go? “If your weren’t a liberal before the age of thirty, then you didn’t have a heart. But if you weren’t a conservative after the age of thirty, then you didn’t have a brain.”

    1. Jon Cleland Host2 months ago

      It’s known as an “old political saw” because it’s old. It applied back when the main issues of debate were fiscal issues, such as whether or not to increase welfare, etc. For social issues and human rights issues (which is what “conservative” increasingly means these days), it doesn’t work. It implies that no one with a brain would suggest equal rights for LGBT people, women, minorities, or recognize dominant group privilege, and that no one with a brain would let a woman and her doctor decide her health decisions, and so on.

  2. Anonymous2 months ago

    This poll is a load of bull as a young evangelical I don’t know anyone in my age bracket who is an evangelical and support so called gay marriage.

    1. Hypocritical Sandwich2 months ago

      Who u know means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Polls are not based off who u know.

      1. Anonymous2 months ago

        He is the thing bud Evangelicals are people who follow what God has said and we have similar views because of it. This poll is BS and any one who is an Evangelical or around them knows it.

        1. Anonymous2 months ago

          The idea is that only *one* group, Evangelicals, cares “what God has said” is probably the most ridiculous assertion you make above. Second most ridiculous: that those who care “what God has said” all AGREE about this (or any other) issue.

      2. Anonymous2 months ago

        Perhaps, but the polls don’t really have a universally agreed on definition of “Evangelical” and even if they did Evangelicals themselves might not agree with it. In some respects “Evangelical” is almost more of a political demographic term than a theological one. Obvious example being it tends to be limited to whites ignoring Blacks, Asians, or Hispanics even when they are of a “predominately white” Evangelical denomination.

        Also it might be possible that by “accept” they just mean “accept there’s nothing we can do about it.” I know of people who firmly do not believe in same-sex marriage, but “accept” it’s the law of the land and not going to change.

        1. D Friend2 months ago

          I think Pew gets all of its data from people reporting info about themselves. If someone self-identifies as an evangelical, then pew will proceed as if that information is true. So it doesn’t matter who you think is in or out of your religion. It’s up to individual respondents.

        2. Anonymous1 month ago

          You are correct but if the make up of the court changes then you will see us fight it.

    2. Jon Cleland Host2 months ago

      …. because as an evangelical, I’m so rational that I think that the handful of people I know are more representative than a large scale poll done by a professional polling organization. Oh, and Jesus is watching you.

      1. Anonymous1 month ago

        Uh look up what an evangelcial is and what we beileve this poll runs contrary to both things.