Nearly 30% of Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ, national survey finds

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A new study reveals that more than 1 in 4 Gen Z adults — ages 18 to 25 — in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ, a far larger percentage than any other age group of LGBTQ Americans. In addition, almost half of the Gen Z adults who identify as LGBTQ identify as bisexual.

The new 80-page Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) report details “Generation Z’s Views on Generational Change and the Challenges and Opportunities Ahead.”

The report states that “Generation Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in our nation’s history, with roughly half of Gen Zers identifying as non-white” and that “Gen Z adults also identify as part of the LGBTQ community at much higher rates than older Americans.”

The report also situates Gen Z in history, which clearly influences much of their identifications. The report states, “Generation Z has come of age during a particularly tumultuous time, beginning with the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol after President Trump refused to concede his loss in the 2020 presidential election.”

It continues, “Sometimes referred to as the Lockdown Generation, Gen Z has had to grapple with an unprecedented epidemic of school shootings. They are also clear-eyed about the existential threat that climate change poses to their futures. These concerns have prompted many Gen Zers to take to the streets and organize in their communities.”

The report considers what sets members of Generation Z apart from older generations in terms of their political and cultural values, their faith in communities and political institutions, and their views about religion and the importance of diversity and inclusion in U.S. democracy. 

PRRI’s study draws from the focus group research as well. PRRI convened ten virtual focus groups with Gen Z adults, aged 18 to 25, from across the U.S., who were selected to represent a wide cross section of Gen Zers. Those groups were: one white group with two years of college or less, one white group with a four-year college degree, one Black group, one Hispanic group, one LGBTQ group, one group of Gen Zers who identified as politically independent, one Democratic group of Gen Z women, one Democratic group of Gen Z men, one Republican group of Gen Z women, and one Republican group with Gen Z men.

PRRI said, “These focus groups provided an environment for conversations about participants’ views on generational differences, diversity, the economy, political institutions, and the role of religion in Gen Zers’ lives, helping to provide more context for our survey findings.”

The Gen Z numbers on LGBTQ identification compare with 10% of all adults, 16% of Millennials, 7% of Generation X, 4% of Baby Boomers and 4% of the Silent Generation. That data is in the PRRI report’s chapter on a “Profile of Gen Z Americans Compared With Older Generations.”

Because the report is focused solely on Gen Z, there’s no context for the differences in out identities, or, for example, that among older generations — notably Gen X through Silent Generation, the AIDS crisis killed thousands of gay men. From 1981 through 1990, 100,777 deaths among persons with AIDS were reported to CDC by local, state and territorial health departments; almost one third (31,196) of these deaths were reported during 1990.

CDC states most deaths from AIDS occurred among homosexual/bisexual men (69%) and nearly three fourths of deaths occurred among persons 25-44 years of age.

In addition, discrimination has impacted older generations more deeply, suggesting that had the cultural and political landscape been different, there would have been more out LGBTQ+ people from these previous generations.

Melissa Deckman, PRRI’s chief executive and lead researcher, said, “With respect to LGBTQ identity, it’s very clear that Gen Z adults look different than older Americans.”

The report found on sexual orientation and gender identity, 72% of Gen Z adults identified as straight, 15% as bisexual, 5% as gay or lesbian and 8% as something else. 

Researchers also found that Gen Z adults were less likely to affiliate with established religions.

PRRI’s new survey, which included more than 6,600 participants, was conducted in August and September 2023.

While last year’s Gallup poll showed that Gen Z is the queerest adult generation to date, the numbers were somewhat lower. In its most recent poll, released in February 2023, Gallup found 7.2% of adults in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ, including nearly 20% of those in Gen Z, which that survey defined as those ages 19 to 26.

PRRI’s report is situated in an increasingly volatile and anti-LGBTQ+ political landscape, with the 2024 presidential election focusing on LGBTQ “culture wars” as a flashpoint for the GOP

Last year, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures around the country, a record, including 75 that were signed into law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. As PGN has previously reported, the ACLU projects that more than 320 bills were pre-filed for or introduced during this year’s state legislative sessions.

In a press release on the study, HRC said these numbers are “substantially higher than what’s been reported by other sources, such as Gallup. This increase highlights a positive change in the social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people amongst younger generations and is further proof that the American electorate will be increasingly more out and allied as members of Gen Z turn 18.” 

HRC also highlighted the impact of Gen Z on the electorate and PRRI found Gen Z leans Democratic. HRC said, “With nearly 30% of Gen Z adults identifying as LGBTQ+, LGBTQ+ Americans are one of the fastest growing voting blocs in the country, growing at a scale, scope, and speed that will fundamentally reshape the American electoral landscape. The LGBTQ+ voting bloc is projected to surge in coming years, nearing one-in-five voters by 2040, emerging as among one of the most influential voting constituencies in the country whose impact will permanently transform and reshape politics in the United States.”

Kelley Robinson, HRC president, said in a statement. “Whether it’s at the polls, in marches and rallies, or online, LGBTQ+ visibility matters and Gen Z is a force for change. Thousands of LGBTQ+ young people turn 18 each day — and lawmakers should understand there will be repercussions in November for anti-LGBTQ+ political attacks.”

Robinson added, “While LGBTQ+ people have always existed, it’s not always been, and still often is not, easy to live freely and openly. We will continue our work towards a future where everyone in every generation can be free and comfortable to be their authentic selves.”