Janelle Wong is an Associate Professor of American Studies and the Director of Asian American Studies at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Her research focuses on race, immigration, and political mobilization. Dr. Wong is the author of Democracy’s Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions (2006, University of Michigan Press) and co-author of two books on Asian American politics. She is currently working on a book about the impact Asian American and Latino evangelical Christians will have on the traditional conservative Christian movement and immigrant political participation. Recently, PRRI had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Wong in depth about some of the 2014 American Values Survey’s findings on Asian Americans.
The American religious landscape is evolving rapidly. During the last decade, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans has more than doubled—21 percent identify as unaffiliated today, compared to eight percent in 2003. Millennials are three times more likely than the oldest generation to identify as religiously unaffiliated (32 percent vs. 10 percent).
The fact that most Millennials who are now religiously unaffiliated were raised in a religious tradition raises important questions about the forces responsible for this recent shift. PRRI’s latest survey finds one reason for high rates of disaffiliation among Millennials is their perception about how religious institutions treat gay and lesbian people. Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17 percent) or very important (14 percent) factor in their disaffiliation from religion. In contrast, fewer than 1-in-5 Baby Boomers (19 percent) and Silent Generation Americans (17 percent) who have disaffiliated report that this was a somewhat or very important reason for their leaving.
Moreover, the implications of religious institutions’ ideologies about, and treatment of, gay and lesbian people are viewed similarly by Millennials and Americans overall. Most Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people, while roughly one-third (35 percent) disagree. Millennials remain most likely to believe that religious groups are alienating young people. Seven-in-ten (70 percent) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. In contrast, only roughly 4-in-10 (43 percent) members of the Silent Generation believe that religious groups are alienating young people, while nearly as many (44 percent) disagree.