Generational Divisions in the Pews on Same-sex Marriage

As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on two cases related to same-sex marriage, recent surveys have shown yawning generational divisions between younger and older Americans on this issue. A recent survey conducted by PRRI and the Brookings Institution finds that this generational gap persists among important religious groups. There are substantial differences in the attitudes of younger (age 18-34) and older (age 65 and older) white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants, Catholics, and the religiously unaffiliated.

Although white evangelical Protestants are among the least supportive groups when it comes to same-sex marriage, a slim majority (51%) of younger evangelicals (age 18-34) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to only 14% of white evangelical seniors. Similarly, three-quarters (75%) of younger Catholics support gay marriage, compared to less than 4-in-10 (37%) senior Catholics. Seven-in-ten (70%) younger white mainline Protestants favor same-sex marriage, compared to less than half (48%) of mainline Protestant seniors. And finally, although majorities of every age cohort among the religiously unaffiliated favor same-sex marriage, there remain striking differences in intensity. More than 8-in-10 (84%) younger religiously unaffiliated Americans support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to less than 6-in-10 (57%) religiously unaffiliated seniors.

These divisions show that on the issue of same-sex marriage, younger religious Americans are often more closely aligned with their generation than their denomination. This week’s graphic also shows that strong majorities of Millennials (age 18-29), regardless of political affiliation, favor same-sex marriage.