'Erosion in acceptance' of LGBTQ people among young Americans, survey finds

Young Americans ages 18-34 are increasingly uncomfortable around LGBTQ people in personal situations, like learning a family member, doctor, or child’s teacher is LGBTQ.
By Tim Fitzsimons

In its annual “Accelerating Acceptance” survey, GLAAD found that people ages 18-34 are increasingly uncomfortable in “personal scenarios” with LGBTQ people — like learning that a family member, doctor or child’s teacher is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Nationwide, the support for “equal rights for the LGBT community” remained stable at 80 percent, GLAAD’s survey found. But the biggest drop in support identified by the LGBTQ rights group was among the youngest Americans.

In 2016, 24 percent of respondents age 18-34 said they would feel uncomfortable with a LGBTQ family member; by 2018 that rose to 36 percent — about one in three. A similar rise was measured among the youngest group of respondents who say they would feel uncomfortable to learn their child was receiving an LGBTQ history lesson at school, from 27 percent to 39 percent.

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"With the knowledge that erosion in acceptance was primarily happening among younger males, GLAAD launched a program dedicated to working with the video game industry on LGBTQ inclusion, to bring LGBTQ characters and stories to a world where male audiences were consuming content," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a press release announcing a selection of survey findings.

This marked shift is reflected in the shrinking of a group of respondents that GLAAD classifies as “allies” — those who say they are “very” or “somewhat” comfortable in all seven interpersonal situations tested. In 2016, 62 percent of young men ages 18-34 reported feeling comfortable in all seven LGBTQ situations; in 2018, that number dropped to 35 percent, although GLAAD did not say which or how many interpersonal situations saw a decline in support.

"The younger generation has traditionally been thought of as a beacon of progressive values," said Ellis said. "We have taken that idea for granted, and this year’s results show that the sharp and quick rise in divisive rhetoric in politics and culture is having a negative influence on younger Americans"

GLAAD’s findings support other recent surveys, including the PRRI survey, that show generalized support for LGBTQ equal rights remains strong. Their March survey found that nearly 70 percent of all Americans, with majorities across all religions, support “broad nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

A recent poll from the Williams Institute at UCLA found about half of voters are less likely to support a candidate because they are over 70. Just 34 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to support a candidate because he or she is gay.

According to a review of Gallup polling about homosexuality, first queried in 1977, support for gay people continues to increase. In 1977, just 13 percent of Americans believed being gay or lesbian is innate; today that number is 49 percent. In 1977, 14 percent of people believed gay and lesbians should be allowed to adopt; today it is 75 percent. In 1977, 56 percent of respondents said gay people should have equal employment rights; today, 93 percent believe that.

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