Three-Quarters Say Sexual Assault is Common on University Campuses
New survey explores impact of race and religion on attitudes toward sexuality, reproductive health, and relationships
WASHINGTON – A new survey released today finds broad support among the Millennial generation for contraception that is accessible and affordable. Six in ten millennials—including 64 percent of women, 55 percent of men, and majorities of major racial and ethnic groups—see access to contraception as critical for the financial security of women. The survey also finds nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of millennials reporting that sexual assault is at least somewhat common on college campuses, and a majority (53 percent) of millennials report that such incidents are at least somewhat common in high schools.
The 2015 Millennials, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Survey was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). The large nationwide survey of 2,314 adults between the ages of 18 and 35 was conducted between February 12 and February 25, 2015. The findings of this landmark survey—one of the largest ever conducted among millennials on these topics—will be discussed today at a forum at The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation at 10:00 AM EDT.
Access to Contraception
“Majorities of both women and men in the Millennial generation believe access to contraception is critical not just for reproductive health, but also for the financial well-being of women,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Few millennials have moral qualms about birth control, and they generally support policies to make contraception widely available and affordable.”
The survey finds that less than one in ten (9 percent) millennials say that using contraception is morally wrong, compared to 71 percent who say it is morally acceptable and 14 percent who say it depends on the situation. Approximately eight in ten favor making all forms of legal contraception readily available on college campuses (78 percent) and favor increasing access to contraception for women who cannot afford it (81 percent). Fifty-five percent of millennials oppose requiring a prescription to obtain emergency contraception, such as the “morning after” pill. Nearly one in five (18 percent) millennial women report having used emergency contraception and 29 percent say that a close friend or family member has used it.
Sexual Assault on College and High School Campuses
Millennials report that sexual assault is prevalent both on college campuses and in high schools. Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of millennials overall—and 81 percent of black millennials—say that sexual assault is somewhat or very common on college and university campuses. Sixty percent of millennials agree that colleges and universities are not doing enough to address the problem of sexual assault.
Fifty-three percent of millennials—including 70 percent of black millennial women and 66 percent of black millennial men—say that sexual assault is somewhat or very common in high schools. A wider gender gap exists among white millennials: 59 percent of white millennial women say that sexual assault is at least somewhat common in high schools, compared to only 44 percent of white millennial men.
Gender Roles and Workplace Discrimination
When it comes to work-life balance and relationships, millennials view men who concentrate too much on work as a more serious concern for families than women who have a full-time job. Nearly half (49 percent) of millennials say that family life suffers when men focus too much on their work, compared to 30 percent who say family life suffers when a woman has a full-time job; two-thirds (66 percent) of millennials disagree that women working full time are a threat to family well-being.
“Millennial women and men have divergent perceptions of gender equality in the workplace,” said Dan Cox, Research Director at Public Religion Research Institute. “Millennial women are more likely than men to perceive existing inequities in both compensation and opportunities, and these gender gaps are particularly large among whites.”
Millennial women are much more likely than millennial men to agree that women get fewer opportunities than men for good jobs (67 percent vs. 49 percent, respectively), that women still do not receive equal pay for equal work (72 percent vs. 56 percent, respectively), and that employers should make special efforts to hire and promote qualified women because of current and past discrimination (68 percent vs. 53 percent, respectively). The gender gap among white millennials on this question is nearly 20 points; while 64 percent of white millennial women agree that employers should make special efforts to hire and promote qualified women, only 46 percent of white millennial men agree.
Millennial attitudes on the legality of abortion roughly reflect the attitudes of the general public. Fifty-five percent of millennials say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases; 55 percent also say that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions. Of note, there are no significant differences of opinion on the legality of abortion between millennial men and women.
Millennials are divided by religion on the issue of the legality of abortion. On one side, at least six in ten black Protestant (61 percent) and white mainline Protestant millennials (63 percent) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 79 percent of religiously unaffiliated millennials. White Catholic millennials are evenly split between those who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases (51 percent) and those who say it should be illegal in all or most cases (49 percent). On the opposing side, majorities of Hispanic Catholic (55 percent) and Hispanic Protestant millennials (61 percent) think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. White evangelical Protestant millennials stand out as the group most opposed, with eight in ten (80 percent) saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
Personal experience strongly impacts views about the legality of abortion. Among women who report having had an abortion, nearly eight in ten (79 percent) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 20 percent who say it should be illegal. Similarly, among millennial women who have a close friend or family member who has had an abortion, 63 percent say it should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 37 percent who say it should be illegal.
Millennials also strongly factor specific circumstances into their moral evaluations of abortion. Fifty-six percent of millennials agree that in certain circumstances, having an abortion is the most responsible decision that a woman can make. Majorities of white (55 percent), black (59 percent), and Asian-Pacific Islander millennials (70 percent) agree.
Additional Key Findings
Most millennials oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. A majority (58 percent) of millennials—including majorities of Asian-Pacific Islanders (64 percent), Hispanic (67 percent), black (57 percent), and white millennials (55 percent)—say that privately owned corporations should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. Still, strong political divisions persist. While 73 percent of Democratic and 57 percent of independent millennials say privately owned corporations should be required to provide no-cost contraception coverage in employees’ health care plans, only 38 percent of Republican millennials agree.
One-quarter of millennials say that marriage has become old-fashioned and out of date, while 71 percent disagree.
A slim majority (51 percent) of millennials agree that it is not that big of a deal if one person in a relationship takes on most of the family and household responsibilities, while 46 percent disagree. Notably, the opinions of married millennials are nearly identical to those who are single; there is only a modest gender gap on the question.
A majority (56 percent) of millennials also oppose making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, compared to 40 percent who favor such policies. Majorities of millennials in the Northeast (64 percent), South (58 percent), and West (55 percent) say they oppose making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, while millennials in the Midwest are divided (47 percent oppose, 48 percent favor).
While the majority of millennials support the legality of abortion and the availability of abortion services, nearly six in ten (59 percent) millennials oppose making abortion services available to young women age 16 or older without parental approval, while 37 percent support this policy.
Most millennials are uncomfortable attaching themselves exclusively to the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels that have defined the abortion debates for decades. Only about one-quarter of millennials identify exclusively as “pro-life” (25 percent) or “pro-choice” (27 percent). Approximately as many millennials (27 percent) say that both labels describe them equally well, while 22 percent say neither label describes them well. There are no differences between millennial men and women, but the willingness to embrace these labels varies considerably by racial and ethnic background.
The degree to which millennials feel comfortable discussing sexual health issues varies considerably across demographic groups. Two patterns stand out consistently across topics: black millennials are less likely to feel very comfortable discussing sexual health issues with their spouse or partner, and Asian-Pacific Islander millennials are less likely to feel very comfortable talking about these topics with their parents.
Three-quarters of millennials favor teaching comprehensive sex education in public schools. Twenty-three percent of millennials overall, and 32 percent of those who attended religious high schools, say that they had no sex education classes in middle or high school. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of millennials say that emphasizing safe sexual practices and birth control is a better way to prevent unintended pregnancy than emphasizing abstinence from sex (23 percent). There is general agreement across racial and ethnic lines on this question. White evangelical Protestant millennials stand apart from other millennials, with half (50 percent) favoring an emphasis on birth control, compared to 40 percent favoring an emphasis on abstinence.
The 2015 Millennials, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Survey was conducted by Public Religion Research Institute among a random sample of 2,314 adults between the ages of 18 and 35. Interviews were conducted online in both English and Spanish between February 12 and February 25, 2015. The base sample of 1,323 respondents was augmented by oversamples of African Americans (N=261), Hispanics (N=608) and Asian-Pacific Islanders (N=122). The margin of error for the overall survey is +/- 2.7 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.
The survey was made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation. Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.