Jun 9

Past Event

Decoupling the Values Agenda: Millennials, Religion, and Shifting Attitudes toward Abortion and Same-sex Marriage

Event Materials



  • Abortion Debate Plays Out in Voting Booth

    Melissa Deckman, Washington College: The abortion debate plays out clearly in the voting booth: pro-lifers tend to vote only for candidates who oppose abortion while pro-choice voters will support a candidate with differing abortion views.

  • Millenials on Abortion and Same Sex Marriage

    Robert Jones, Public Religion Research Institute: When talking about abortion and same sex marriage, two issues that often inflame election rhetoric, Millennials offer both a fresh take and a few old views.

  • PRRI Poll and the Millennial Position

    Karlyn Bowman, American Enterprise Institute: The PRRI poll illustrates that the Millennial position on abortion reflects support for both the sanctity of life and personal choice.


Brookings Multimedia content requires JavaScript. Your browser either doesn't have JavaScript or doesn't have it enabled.

Instructions to enable JavaScript.


In recent election cycles, the so-called “values voter” agenda has often been distilled to abortion and same-sex marriage. Yet new research shows that these two controversial topics are no longer necessarily linked in the minds of Americans. The gap is particularly notable among the Millennial generation (18-29 year olds), who support gay rights at rates much higher than their parents but whose views on abortion do not deviate significantly from those of their parents or the general public. Millennials have a unique, nuanced approach to the issue of abortion, combining strong support for the availability of abortion services and access to birth control with moral reservations.

On June 9, the religion, policy and politics project at Brookings co-hosted an event with the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) to release PRRI’s “Millennials, Religion, and Abortion Survey.” One of the largest public surveys on abortion and religion ever conducted, the analysis delved into the moral complexity of views on abortion and also explored generational, religious, and ethnic differences to an extent not typically possible with smaller polls. Brookings Senior Fellow E.J. Dionne, Jr. moderated the discussion. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI and principal researcher on the survey, presented key findings. Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Dr. Melissa Deckman, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science and Louis L. Goldstein Associate Professor of Public Affairs at Washington College, offered analysis of the survey results and discussed their implications.

After the program, panelists took audience questions.

Event Agenda

  • Moderator

  • Presentation of Survey Results

    • Robert P. Jones

      CEO and Founder

      Public Religion Research Institute

  • Respondents

    • Karlyn Bowman

      Senior Fellow

      American Enterprise Institute

    • Melissa Deckman

      Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science

      Louis L. Goldstein Associate Professor of Public Affairs, Washington College


June 9, 2011

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM EDT

The Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications

(202) 797-6105