WASHINGTON -- Most of America's young adults are single, don't go to church and while half say they have no loyalty to a political party, when pushed they tend to swing further left politically than those before them.

A new Pew Research Center survey out Friday showed that half of America's young adults, ages 18 to 33, consider themselves political independents, identifying with neither party. But asked which way they lean politically, half of the so-called millennials say they lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the past decade.

In addition, young adults seem to be turning away from their predecessors' proclivity for religion and marriage. Almost two-thirds don't classify themselves as "a religious person." And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age.

The new survey shows how the millennial adults are "forging a distinctive path into adulthood," said Paul Taylor, Pew's executive vice president and co-author of the report.

This can especially be seen when it comes to politics. Only 27 percent said they consider themselves Democrats and 17 percent said Republicans. The half of millennials who say they are independent is an increase from 38 percent back in 2004.


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"It's not that they don't have strong opinions, political opinions, they do," Taylor said. "It's simply that they choose not to identify themselves with either political party."

The number of self-described independents is lower among their predecessors. Only 39 percent of those in Generation X said they were independents, along with 37 percent of the boomers and 32 percent of the Silent Generation.

Pew describes Gen Xers as those from age 34-49, boomers as 50-68 and the Silent Generation as those 69-86.

When the self-identified Democratic millennials are combined with the self-described independents who lean Democratic, half -- 50 percent -- of the millennials are Democrats or Democratic-leaning while 34 percent are Republicans or Republican-leaning.

"They don't choose to identify, but they have strong views and their views are views that most people conventionally associate with the Democratic Party," Taylor said. "They believe in a big activist government on some of the social issues of the day -- gay marriage, marijuana legalization, immigration. Their views are much more aligned with the Democratic Party."

Taylor said they don't know whether millennial voting trends will stay the same as they get older.

The Pew study was based on interviews with 1,821 adults by cellphone or landline from Feb. 14-23. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.