Annual GLAAD Study Shows Further Decline in LGBTQ Acceptance among Younger Americans

June 24, 2019


Accelerating Acceptance Index by GLAAD and The Harris Poll Shows Overall LGBTQ Acceptance in America Steady after Drop in 2018

Days Before 50th Anniversary of Stonewall Riots, GLAAD Shines Light on Rise of Hate and Discrimination in America Today with List of Anti-LGBTQ Violence in 2019

New York, NY, June 24, 2019 – GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced the findings of its fifth annual Accelerating Acceptance Index, a national survey among U.S. adults conducted on GLAAD’s behalf by The Harris Poll. The Index measures American attitudes toward LGBTQ people. The percentage of non-LGBTQ adults reporting being ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ comfortable with LGBTQ people across seven scenarios remained stable (49%) after a significant decline last year (49% ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ comfortable in the 2018 report versus 53% in the 2017 report). Importantly, however, this year’s Index found the number of young Americans ages 18-34 who are comfortable across all seven scenarios dropped from 53% to 45%, the second consecutive year that this age group has shown a drop. 

For the full report:

GLAAD released the Accelerating Acceptance Index days before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the start of WorldPride in New York City. The Index also comes amidst a number of high profile incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence, which GLAAD has documented here. Reported hate crimes in America rose 17 percent last year, the third consecutive year that such crimes increased, according to data released by the FBI in 2018.

The Accelerating Acceptance Index was conducted online earlier this year among a national sample of 1,970 US adults, 18 or over, who were presented with seven situations that were selected by GLAAD and The Williams Institute in 2015. They include: learning a family member is LGBT, learning my doctor is LGBT, having LGBT members at my place of worship, seeing a LGBT co-worker’s wedding picture, having my child placed in a class with a LGBT teacher, seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, and learning my child has a lesson on LGBT history in school.

By combining responses to these situations, the annual Index provides insight into the rate at which non-LGBTQ Americans accept LGBTQ people.

How Comfortable are Americans with LGBTQ People?

  • This year, nearly half of non-LGBTQ adults (49%) are classified as ‘allies’ in the Index, meaning they responded that they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ comfortable with LGBTQ people across all of the seven situations. This is has not changed from the 49% reported in 2018, which was down from 53% the year prior.
  • 38% of non-LGBTQ adults are classified as ‘detached supporters’, whose comfort levels varies across the seven scenarios. 13% are classified as ‘resisters’ and are not comfortable in any of the situations that were presented. The percentage of ‘resisters’ has been stable since the start of the Accelerating Acceptance Index.
  • The only age group to post a decline this year was young Americans ages 18-34. The number of non-LGBTQ U.S. adults ages 18-34 who reported being ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ comfortable across all seven situations dropped from 53% to 45%. This reflects a continued erosion in comfort among this age group over the past two years.  This year, the significant erosion is being driven by females ages 18-34, where comfort levels fell from 64% last year to 52% this year.
  • In total, 18% of respondents report knowing a transgender person; 31% know a bisexual person; 75% know a gay or lesbian person.

Young People are More Uncomfortable with LGBTQ People in Personal Situations:

  • More young people ages 18-34 responded that they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ uncomfortable in three personal scenarios including learning a family member is LGBT (36% uncomfortable in the 2019 report vs. 29% in the 2018 report); learning my doctor is LGBT (34% vs. 27%); and learning my child had a lesson on LGBT history in their school (39% vs. 30%).
  • 43% of males ages 18-34 reported that they were uncomfortable learning a family member is LGBT (up from 32% in 2018) and 42% of males ages 18-34 reported that they were uncomfortable learning their child’s teacher is LGBT (up from 37% in 2018).
  • 40% of females ages 18-34 reported that they were uncomfortable learning their child had a lesson on LGBT history in school, an increase of 13 percentage points from the previous year’s findings.

8 out of 10 Americans Support Equal Rights for LGBTQ People for Third Consecutive Year:

  • GLAAD and The Harris Poll found that support for equal rights is stable. The majority of non-LGBTQ Americans (80%) support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. This particular statistic has been consistent since 2016.
  • 12% of the survey reported to be LGBTQ. In order to be more inclusive than other surveys, GLAAD includes a more expansive number of sexual orientations and gender identities to select from.

“Last year, when we saw an erosion in LGBTQ acceptance, GLAAD doubled down on our formula for making positive culture change,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The sharp and quick rise in divisive rhetoric both in politics and in culture is now having a negative influence on younger Americans and coinciding with an alarming pattern of anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, LGBTQ people and allies must urgently address today’s cultural crisis by being visible and vigilant.”

“We typically see in our surveys that younger Americans can be counted on to advocate for issues like gender equality, immigration and climate change,” said John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll. “So it is surprising to see a notable erosion of acceptance for the LGBTQ community, which counters many of the assumptions we make about their values and beliefs. In this toxic age, tolerance––even among youth––now seems to be parsed out. Nothing today should be taken for granted.” 

Research Method

The fifth annual Accelerating Acceptance survey was conducted by The Harris Poll for GLAAD.  The methodology was consistent with all previous studies and was conducted online among a nationally representative sample of US adults (18+), which yielded a sample of 1970 adults of whom 1754 were classified as non-LGBTQ adults and used in the analysis. The online survey was administered January 8-11, 2019.

Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in The Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in online panels, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please and connect with The Harris Poll on Twitter and LinkedIn.