Teens Rate Respect for Women, Homosexuals

by Jennifer Robison, Contributing Editor

Second in a two-part series

Despite the strides made with the civil rights and women's rights movements, Americans are still divided about the amount of progress that has been made, and results from a recent Gallup survey of teens (aged 13 to 17) give us a good idea of how young Americans feel about the way various minority groups are treated. In the most recent Gallup Youth Survey*, we asked teens whether a variety of minority groups receive too much, about the right amount, or too little respect. The groups included three racial and ethnic minorities (blacks, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans), and two non-racial groups (women and homosexuals). This article focuses on what teens think about society's respect toward women and homosexuals.

Are Women Getting a Fair Shake?

The women's rights movement is 150 years old, and women have made strides in every facet of society. While there is still room for improvement, a majority of teens, 57%, currently say that women do get the right amount of respect in the United States, with another 4% saying they get too much respect. Only 38% believe women receive too little respect.

This week's BusinessWeek cover story asserts that "a new gender gap" has emerged in the United States -- what the author calls "a stunning gender reversal in American education." The article makes the argument that with so much recent effort put into raising educational outcomes for girls, boys are increasingly being left -- and are starting to lag -- behind.

The Gallup teen data on the treatment of women does not readily corroborate the BusinessWeek article. Girls and boys generally agree on society's treatment of women, as a majority of both groups (60% of boys and 53% of girls) perceive that women receive sufficient respect. Still, a fairly large minority -- 43% of female teens and 34% of male teens -- perceive an ongoing lack of respect for women. Also, only 6% of boys and 2% of girls believe women get too much respect.

Respect for Homosexuals

Compared to perceptions about women, teens are far more likely to perceive that homosexuals are disadvantaged in society. A slight majority, 53%, says homosexuals get too little respect. However, a fairly large minority, 21%, believes homosexuals receive too much respect. This leaves just a quarter of teens feeling that this sexual minority receives the proper treatment in society.

In contrast to the gender's similar attitudes about women, significantly more girls than boys feel that homosexuals aren't adequately respected. Two-thirds (66%) of girls say homosexuals get too little respect, as do only 40% of boys. Twenty percent of girls, and 30% of boys, say homosexuals get enough respect. Girls (12%) are less than half as likely as boys (29%) to say homosexuals get too much respect.

Bottom Line

Sex discrimination could take on a whole new meaning for the current generation of teens than what it meant to their parents. Twenty years ago, the term clearly applied to the treatment of women. But today, most teens -- males and females alike -- seem fairly satisfied with the amount of respect women receive in society. The new sex discrimination issue could include gay rights, as a majority of teens -- and particularly teen girls -- believe that homosexuals are receiving less respect than they deserve. And just as the women's rights debate may have sent some tempers flaring in the 1960s, the contemporary issue of respect for homosexuals is controversial, as a significant minority of teens believe homosexuals are granted too much respect.

*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 1,200 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Jan. 23-Feb. 10, 2003. One can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±7% for teens who visited chat rooms and ±4% for teens who had not visited chat rooms. For a complete description of the sampling and weighting procedures used to conduct the survey, click here.

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