Generation Z Is Gayer, More Anxious and Less Conservative Than Other Generations

How Much of Generation Z Identifies as LGBTQ+?

A new survey from the PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) is making the rounds for its conclusion that Generation Z is gayer than other generations — a conclusion also reached by nearly every study on this topic over the past several years. This rise in affiliation is probably due to the superiority of the queer lifestyle and the rise of JoJo Siwa as well as more objective factors like more LGBTQ+ media visibility, more acceptance of gay people, less fear about identifying as LGBTQ+ and more knowledge that LGBTQ+ identities exist.

According to PRRI, who surveyed 6,014 human beings in total, 28% of Gen Z adults (ages 18-24) identify as LGBTQ+. Meanwhile, 16% of millennials, seven percent of Generation X and 4% of baby boomers identify as LGBTQ+. PRRI also surveyed Gen Z teens (ages 13 – 17) but did not ask them about their LGBTQ+ affiliation.

Other recent polls have delivered similar numbers. In June 2023, Ipsos found 16% of Generation Z and 15% of millennials in the United States identifying as LGBTQ+. In February 2023, Gallup determined that 19.7% of Gen Z and 11% of millennials identified as LGBTQ+. The difference in results between those surveys and the PRRI survey is almost definitely due to differences in the poll structures, samples and methodologies, rather than a year-to-year explosion of sexual deviance amongst Zoomers.

“Generation Z is More Likely To Be Gay Than Republican”

As many gay headlines have declared, the PRRI data also found Generation Z is more likely to identify as LGBTQ than they are as Republicans (21%). Last year, a 2023 Human Rights Campaign report (which cited 27% of Gen-Zers as LGBTQ+) made a similar declaration, warning the GOP that their party will continue declining in popularity as being LGBTQ becomes increasingly popular, and therefore maybe they should chill out with all of their anti-trans legislation!

36% of Gen Z adults are Democrats (similar to other generations), and 43% don’t align with either party. 43% consider themselves liberal, and aside from millennials (24%), Gen Z adults are significantly less likely than other generational cohorts to call themselves conservatives.

But the PRRI survey also showed Generation Z was skeptical of partisan politics and the electoral system in general and that most participants “expressed little faith in the federal government or elected officials in Washington” and felt that “elected officials put the needs of the wealthy or corporations ahead of average Americans.” Zoomers expressed skepticism towards mainstream news media and their ability to find any unbiased sources of information, while also sharing some small hopes about the possibilities of local politicians enacting community change. It’s almost like it would be more important than ever for news outlets to have writers who are recognizable human beings and not AI!

Gen Z adults and Millennials also were less likely than older adults to agree that voting is the most effective way to create change in America and more skeptical of the police, federal government, criminal justice system and the news. Still, somehow, over half of Gen Z adults reported some or a great deal of trust in the police (53%), which was more than expressed trust in any other public institution —  police outpaced news organizations (37%), the federal government (41%) and the criminal justice system (42%).

The demographics least likely to report some or a great deal of trust in the police were non-white Gen Z adults (47%) and Gen Z Democrats (45%). Gen Z Democrats were the only sub-demographic of Generation Z adults who trusted the news and the federal government more than the police, and the only group for which the criminal justice system overall was the least trusted entity. Gen Z Republicans, perhaps because their current devoted leader calls the news “fake” and loves the police, had the lowest levels of faith in the news organizations, and the highest levels of trust in the police.

Generation Z Adults were also the least likely to identify as white Christians (27%) and more likely to be religiously unaffiliated (33%) than every generation aside from millennials, who came in at 36%. I went ahead and dug up PRRI’s 2012 study of millennials — and at that time, only 25% of Millennials identified as religiously unaffiliated, suggesting that these rates may be increasing over time for younger generations, and I’m curious to see how high those numbers will climb in the coming years. I’m sure the Public Religion Research Institute is too!

The people most likely to agree that “college is a smart investment” are the people who went to college for $500 and the people who’ve yet to attend college because they are too young: 56% percent of Gen Z Teens and 57% of Silent Generation members said college is a smart investment, compared to 42% of millennials and around half of every other generational cohort.

Generation Z Adults Are More Likely To Be Anxious, Lonely and Online

Teenagers these days are faring better emotionally than Gen Z adults, who did, we should recall, enter a major stage of adulthood amid the height of a global pandemic. Gen Z adults are consistently more likely than Gen Z teens to report experiencing negative emotions often or almost all the time. For example, they’re more likely to feel anxious (38% vs. 18%) or depressed (24% vs. 8%).

Gen Z Democrats, women and teenage girls were also more likely to be anxious, lonely, depressed and angry than Gen Z Republicans, men, and teen boys. There was also a correlation between being Very Online and experiencing negative emotions — Zoomers who made meaningful connections through in-person activities like sports fared better than those who made their more meaningful connections through social media sites. Correlation and causation is difficult to parse out there — people who feel connected to their local communities and group activities may be happier than those who don’t, and those who don’t are more likely to need to find their community on the internet.

In general, it seemed that negative emotions peak with Gen Z adults and Millennials, with feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety gradually decreasing across generational lines. It is clear that the best way to be happy is to be retired.

Generation Z Is Skeptical But Engaged

Ultimately, these numbers all tell the same story: Young people in this country — Generation Z and Millennials — are skeptical of it. They’re opting out of the hetero-patriarchy and organized religion. They’ve lost trust in the government, the media, and the criminal justice system. But this research points out that they’re also far more likely than other generations to have participated in some form of activism or direct action in the last 12 months, including volunteering and attending a rally or demonstration — with women more likely to have done so than men.

With surveys like this it’s always hard to draw conclusions by comparing generations, never really entirely sure how much of these results can be attributed to an age group and how much is truly specific to a generation. Historically, college-age humans have always been exceptionally politically engaged compared to younger people (with less independence and knowledge of current events) and older people (who often turn inwards toward familial and work obligations as they get older). In their 2015 survey of Millennials, 15% reported having attended a rally or demonstration in the past 12 months, in line with 14% of Gen Z Adults on this survey. Meanwhile, whereas Gen Z adults are more likely to be out there on the streets, Boomers and Silent Generation members are more likely to have contacted an elected official to express their views.

We’re All Getting Gayer

Although the focus of this survey was on Generation Z, it’s worth noting that numbers are increasing across the board across generations, indicating people coming into their sexual orientations and gender identities later in life. In PRRI’s  2015 survey, 7% of millennials identified as LGBT, and now 16% do. That’s big growth, so good job everybody!


feature image by Dmytro Betsenko via Getty Images.

Data nerds can read PRRI’s 80-page survey report here!

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3150 articles for us.

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