The past few years have witnessed rising religiosity in the country, according to data from a number of surveys conducted by different organizations over the past few years. New data from the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey suggests that this could be reinforcing conservative attitudes towards social issues in the country.

While most urban youth are more liberal compared to older cohorts on several issues such as on the role of women in society and on homosexuality, a large number of them still hold conservative views on these issues. One factor driving this conservatism could be religion, an analysis of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey data suggests.

Those who consider religion to be of importance in their lives are less likely to consider gender equality important, the data shows.

Here, youth refers to millennials (those aged 23 to 38 in 2019) and the Gen Zers (22 and younger in 2019). Among older generation too, those with a religious inclination were as a group slightly more conservative when it came to views on women working outside their homes or on the sharing of responsibility of child rearing between parents.

The second round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey was conducted online in January and February —among 5,038 respondents from YouGov India’s panel of internet users spread across more than 180 cities. 2,709 of the 5,038 respondents were millennials (with 1,489 younger millennials), 1,188 were from the Gen-Z (born after 1996). The rest belonged to Gen-X (born between 1965 and 1981) or were even older.

Overall, religion has less of a hold on millennials, especially younger millennials than on older cohorts. But those who are religious among the youth tend to have beliefs similar to older cohorts.

Apart from gender roles, the religious among the youth also have more hardline views on homosexuality. A majority refrained from saying they found homosexuality acceptable. While many among the non-religious youth also had unfavorable views on homosexuality, the numbers appear better when compared to the set of religious youth. Of those who said religion is important in their lives, only 39% said homosexuality is acceptable (compared to 57% of those who do not consider religion important) and 36% said its unacceptable (compared to 21% of those for whom religion is not important).

The views on premarital sex showed a similar pattern, with only 40% of those who are religious saying its acceptable compared to 60% of those among the non-religious saying its acceptable.

When it comes to same sex relationships and sex before marriage, the religious among the non-Hindu community had more conservative views as compared to the religious Hindus. But on gender roles, religious Hindus had more conservative views compared to the religious youth among non-Hindu communities.

Religious youth also tend to have less favorable views on consumption of alcohol as compared to their nonreligious counterparts.

Despite an inherent contradiction between religious conformity and liberal values, surveys in other countries (such as the US) suggests that the number of ‘religious progressives’—are now gaining on ‘religious conservatives’. Religious progressives are people of faith who have typically liberal opinions on a range of issues: they want more freedom to have pre-marital sex, are okay with homosexuality etc.

In India, this class of religious progressives appears to be a small minority even among urban youth.

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