The received wisdom is that younger people are more accepting when it comes to LGBTQ people and issues. Progressives place their hope in “the next generation” when it comes to shifting the goalposts around equality and political change. No longer.
A new Harris Poll commissioned by GLAAD found that 36 percent of respondents in the adults 18 to 34 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.
The study, conducted by the Harris Poll, looked at acceptance levels across seven areas: learning a family member is LGBT, learning one’s doctor is LGBT, having LGBT members at one’s place of worship, seeing an LGBT co-worker’s wedding picture, having one’s child placed in a class with a LGBT teacher, seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, and learning one’s child has a lesson on LGBT history in school.
“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.”
The negative shift for the young is surprising, said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO. When GLAAD delved into the numbers, the group found that the younger generation was coming in contact with more LBGTQ people, particularly individuals who are non-binary and don’t identify simply as lesbian or gay.
“This newness they are experiencing could be leading to this erosion. It’s a newness that takes time for people to understand. Our job is to educate about non-conformity,” she said.
GLAAD plans to target young men with pro-LGBTQ messaging in the arena of video games. But this year, in terms of gender, the decline was seen most in women, aged 18-34. Ellis said that GLAAD would start targeted messaging aimed at that demographic in the arena of country music.
She added that two consecutive years showing a decline in LGBTQ acceptance was concerning, though not in her view “a movement or beginning of a trend. I don’t think we’re ever going to give up on the next generation.”
The survey results come during Pride 2019 and on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which sparked the LGBTQ rights movement.
They also land at a dark hour politically and culturally for the LGBTQ community amid a rise in inflammatory rhetoric and dozens of policy setbacks, such as a ban on transgender people in the military and religious exemption laws that can lead to discrimination, Ellis and Gerzema said. Both are a likely force behind the young’s pushback on tolerance, they said.
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.