Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories
Made with Flourish

Young LGBT people are more politically engaged than the rest of Generation Z

Made with Flourish

Deckman is a professor of political science at Washington College. Kromer is director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.

Last year's midterm elections were a "rainbow wave," with more openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people elected to public office than at any other time in American history.

According to the Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports LGBT candidates, a record 627 openly LGBT candidates ran for public office in 2018, with 399 appearing on the general election ballot.

However, LGBT Americans still remain woefully underrepresented in political office, which suggests that political participation by older generations of LGBT Americans is less frequent than political activism by their straight counterparts. This dynamic, however, may be changing with future generations.

Recent surveys on young Americans in their late teens and early 20s — including one we conducted — reveal that the youngest generation of LGBT Americans is far more engaged in politics than their straight counterparts.


In a June 2017 national survey of 2,023 young Americans age 15 to 24 conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and MTV, one in 10 young Americans identified as LGBT.

This group of LGBT Americans reported higher levels of engagement on seven separate measures of political and civic participation.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Young LGBT Americans were roughly twice as likely as their straight counterparts to report attending a political rally or demonstration, donating money to a political campaign or contacting an elected official. They were also much more likely to engage in online political activism, whether that involved signing a petition, posting about an issue that mattered to them, or following or liking a political campaign.

Combining these individual acts of political participation into a scale, the average young LGBT American reported participating in 3.7 political activities in the past year. Meanwhile, young straight Americans averaged 2.1 activities.

This difference in behavior is also present among members of what we call the "activist class": the young people who have indicated a strong desire to run for office one day.

In May, we conducted a survey of alumni of IGNITE, a nonprofit that trains young women to run for public office, to better understand how they benefited from the organization's programming. We also wanted to understand their views about political engagement more generally and to get a better sense of their political identities.

Here, we focus on the 410 respondents who are 18 to 24 years old.

Seventy-two percent of IGNITE respondents identified themselves as heterosexual and female. The rest identified with another sexual orientation (homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or something else) or gender identity (transgender, gender queer, gender nonconforming or something else). Given the current estimates of the number of openly LGBT Americans nationally, IGNITE is drawing a disproportionately high number of LGBT participants to its programming.

On all comparable measures, IGNITE participants who identify as LGBT reported higher levels of political engagement than straight IGNITE participants, although the differences are not nearly as stark as those in the PRRI survey.

(This may be a reflection of the fact that the IGNITE alumni are a group that self-selected into a women's political training program and thus are more likely to be politically engaged compared with the average 18- to 24-year-old.)

LGBT IGNITE participants averaged four political activities in the past year, compared with 3.2 activities done by heterosexual women.

Both surveys show that this new generation of young LGBT Americans resoundingly rejects both conservatism and the GOP. This may be a factor in their heightened engagement.

Donald Trump's presidency could also be sparking interest in political action. For example, Trump's support of the right of business owners to refuse service to gay Americans because of religious differences has outraged the LGBT community. In the PRRI/MTV study, fewer than 6 percent of LGBT respondents had a favorable view of Trump.

In the IGNITE sample, 57 percent of LGBT women said that Trump's election encouraged them to participate in politics, compared with just 50 percent of the straight women.

Moreover, the PRRI/MTV survey found that only 8 percent of young LGBT Americans identify as conservative, compared with 25 percent of their straight counterparts. More than half of LGBT Americans in the PRRI/MTV poll are Democrats, with just 8 percent declaring they are Republican. The rest identify as independent or with a third party.

The IGNITE survey paints an even bleaker picture for the political right when it comes to young, activist members of the LGBT community. No LGBT respondents to the IGNITE survey identified themselves as a conservative or Republican.

There is very little research on the political engagement of LGBT Americans historically, either because many such Americans may have been reluctant to disclose their status, or because most older surveys did not ask about sexual orientation. So, we can't say for sure if this younger cohort of LGBT Americans participates more in politics than previous generations.

But our work suggests that political engagement among young Americans will largely be driven by progressive activists, including a disproportionate number of LGBT Americans.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Made with Flourish

Read More

Donald Trump and J.D. Vance

Vice presidential candidate J.D. Vance, standing next to former President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, said President Biden's campaign rhetoric "led directly to President Trump's attempted assassination."

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Assassination attempt will fuel political extremism

Khalid is a physician, geostrategic analyst and freelance writer.

President Joe Biden’s initial response to the attack on Donald Trump, calling it “sick” and reaching out to his stricken adversary to express support, was commendable. Statements from other prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as notable Republicans like former President George W. Bush and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, echoed this sentiment of unity and concern.

In contrast, the response from some on the right — engaging in finger-pointing and blaming Democrats for their heated rhetoric — proved less productive. Vice presidential candidate J.D. Vance, for instance, asserted that Biden's campaign rhetoric "led directly to President Trump's attempted assassination," seemingly in reaction to recent comments from Biden suggesting, "It’s time to put Trump in a bullseye." This divisive rhetoric only exacerbates the political tension that already grips the nation. Instead of fostering unity, such accusations deepen the partisan divide.

Keep ReadingShow less
Hands coming together in a circle of people
SDI Productions/Getty Images

Building a future together based on a common cause

Johnson is a United Methodist pastor, the author of "Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community" and program director for the Bridge Alliance, which houses The Fulcrum.

As the 2024 presidential campaigns speed toward November, we face a transformative moment for our nation. The challenges of recent years have starkly revealed the deep divisions that threaten our societal fabric. Yet, amidst the discord, we are presented with a pivotal choice: Will we yield to the allure of division, or will we summon the courage to transcend our differences and shape a future founded on common cause and mutual respect?

Keep ReadingShow less
People protesting laws against homelessness

People protest outside the Supreme Court as the justices prepared to hear Grants Pass v. Johnson on April 22.

Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

High court upholds law criminalizing homelessness, making things worse

Herring is an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA, co-author of an amicus brief in Johnson v. Grants Pass and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network.

In late June, the Supreme Court decided in the case of Johnson v. Grants Pass that the government can criminalize homelessness. In the court’s 6-3 decision, split along ideological lines, the conservative justices ruled that bans on sleeping in public when there are no shelter beds available do not violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

This ruling will only make homelessness worse. It may also propel U.S. localities into a “race to the bottom” in passing increasingly punitive policies aimed at locking up or banishing the unhoused.

Keep ReadingShow less
silhouettes of people arguing in front of an America flag
Pict Rider/Getty Images

'One side will win': The danger of zero-sum framings

Elwood is the author of “Defusing American Anger” and hosts thepodcast “People Who Read People.”

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was surreptitiously recorded at a private event saying, about our political divides, that “one side or the other is going to win.” Many people saw this as evidence of his political bias. In The Washington Post, Perry Bacon Jr. wrote that he disagreed with Alito’s politics but that the justice was “right about the divisions in our nation today.” The subtitle of Bacon’s piece was: “America is in the middle of a nonmilitary civil war, and one side will win.”

It’s natural for people in conflict to see it in “us versus them” terms — as two opposing armies facing off against each other on the battlefield. That’s what conflict does to us: It makes us see things through war-colored glasses.

Keep ReadingShow less