A recent YouGov poll finds that the number of people who know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” instead of “he” or “she” is slowly increasing. But despite gender-neutral pronouns becoming a bigger part of many Americans’ personal lives, half say if they were asked to use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to someone, they would feel uncomfortable doing so.
About one-quarter of Americans say they personally know at least one person who goes by gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” instead of “he” or “she.” U.S. adult citizens under 30 are especially likely to know at least one person who uses gender-neutral pronouns: 43% do, compared to 20% of Americans 65 and older.
Democrats are also more likely than Republicans and Independents to know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. Americans with more formal education are also more likely to know at least one person who uses gender-neutral pronouns than are Americans overall.
The same question was asked in a March 2022 YouGov/Economist poll, at which time fewer (22%) Americans said they knew someone who used gender-neutral pronouns, compared to 27% in our latest poll. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 30% said they knew someone using gender-neutral pronouns, lower than the 43% who currently say they do.
Among Americans who didn't attend college, 23% know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, up from 16% who said this in March.
Although the majority of Americans do not know anyone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, Americans are evenly divided on whether they would feel comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun for someone if that person asked them to. Half say they would feel somewhat or very comfortable, and half say they would feel somewhat or very uncomfortable.
Nearly two-thirds of adults under 30 say they would be comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns. Around half of 30- to 64-year-olds say the same, while 38% of people 65 and older would be comfortable addressing someone by a gender-neutral pronoun if asked to.
Similar gaps exist among members of different political parties. While two-thirds of Democrats (63%) say they would be comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun to address someone if they were asked to, just 34% of Republicans say the same.
Having personal experience with a person who prefers to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns appears to be a factor in how comfortable someone is using this terminology.
Among Americans who personally know at least one person who uses gender-neutral pronouns, 74% say they would be comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone, while 26% say they would be uncomfortable with this.
There has been discussion about whether sharing pronouns should become common practice for everyone in certain settings, such as workplaces. (Vice President Kamala Harris recently shared her pronouns of "she" and "her" at an event with disability advocates.) But the majority of Americans don’t think that everyone should generally say or display their pronouns in introductions or on social media.
The largest share of Americans (43%) believe that only people who want to should say or display their pronouns. One in four (23%) believe that people shouldn’t say or display their pronouns unless they’re asked directly. Even fewer (13%) say that everyone should generally say or display their pronouns. (In a similar YouGov poll in the UK in November 2021, 10% said this.)
One-fifth of 18- to 29-year-olds (20%) say everyone should generally say or display their pronouns, though far more (47%) think that only those who want to should say or display their pronouns. Among 30- to 44-year-olds, 38% say only those who want to should say or display their pronouns; 41% of 45- to 64-year-olds agree. Among Americans 65 and older, 45% think only those who want to should say or display your pronouns.
There are some divides politically. Over half (56%) of Democrats say only those who want to should say or display their pronouns, an opinion shared by fewer than half of Independents (43%) and 29% of Republicans. Meanwhile, just 10% of Democrats say that people shouldn’t say or display their pronouns unless they’re asked directly, compared to 26% of Independents and 40% of Republicans.
Some social-media platforms, including Instagram and LinkedIn, have created fields for users to publicly share their pronouns.
About half of Americans say they’ve come across someone saying or displaying their pronouns on their social media description. In keeping with the rest of the findings from this survey, adults under 30 are especially likely to say they’ve come across this on social media. Among Americans who are 30 or older, fewer than half say they have encountered this on social media.
Democrats also are more likely than Republicans to say they’ve encountered people with their pronouns displayed on social media, though the difference between parties is just 11 percentage points.
Among Americans who haven't attended college, 38% say they have encountered pronoun-sharing on social media. This number increases to 59% among college graduates who didn't get a postgraduate degree, and to 69% among people with postgraduate degrees.
Americans remain relatively divided over whether it is a good idea for social-media sites to have space for people to share their pronouns. While 30% think it’s a good idea, 37% say it’s neither a good nor bad idea, and 19% say it is a bad idea.
Opinions are similarly mixed on the merits of workers’ name badges having space for people to show their pronouns and of employee email signatures having space for this.
— Carl Bialik, Linley Sanders, and Taylor Orth contributed to this article.
Related YouGov UK article: Should people have to display their pronouns?
This poll was conducted on June 29 - July 4, 2022 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this YouGov poll.