Millennials are just as split on abortion as previous generations

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Millennials have been dubbed the socially progressive generation—they tend to vote democrat, are more racially diverse and tolerant than previous generations, and favor legalizing marijuana.


But when it comes to historically divisive reproductive rights issues like abortion and contraception, their views are closely aligned with their predecessors.

According to a poll released Friday by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 42 percent of 18 to 35 year-olds think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. And 40 percent "favor" or "strongly favor" making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion in this country.

The numbers line up with a Pew report released in 2014, which found that 56 percent of Millennials believe abortion should be legal. For comparison, 59 percent of Gen Xers and 52 percent of Boomers believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Other key findings from the poll regarding sex and reproductive rights:

  • Thirty-six percent felt access to contraception was not that important of an issue.
  • Nearly a quarter of millennials felt abstinence was the best way to prevent unplanned pregnancy. Sixty-seven percent said emphasizing safe-sex and birth control was best.
  • Thirty-seven percent felt sex between two adults not in a relationship was morally wrong.
  • Fifty-five percent opposed requiring a prescription for emergency contraception.
  • One in 20 reported having an abortion.

The last stat may seem surprising, given that previous research from the Guttmacher Institute found that nearly one in three women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches 45. Yet the question appears to have been posed to both male and female participants, who were asked whether they had a close friend or family member who has had an abortion—one of the multiple choice responses was "Yes, myself."

The Guttmacher stat may also more closely reflect reality, since it computes for lifetime abortion rates.

PRRI surveyed a random sample of 2,314 millennials between the ages of 18 to 35 in both English and Spanish in February. The poll was conducted through the online panel KnowledgePanel.


Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.