Ann Hulbert, in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, is at a loss to figure out why 18-to-25-year-olds don’t have the expected pre-fab package of social views:
Given that 18- to 25-year-olds are the least Republican generation (35 percent) and less religious than their elders (with 20 percent of them professing no religion or atheism or agnosticism), it is curious that on abortion they are slightly to the right of the general public.
It seems that these kids today are generally liberal and pro-gay-rights — and yet, tend pro-life. How mysterious!
It could simply be, of course, that some young people are pro-gay marriage and others are pro-life and that we can expect more of the same old polarized culture warfare ahead of us.
She’s right, of course; no doubt there are plenty of people in this age group who support the rights of the unborn but not gays and lesbians, as well as vice versa. But if about 65% of “Generation Nexters” support limits on abortion and about half support gay marriage (and since support for gay marriage tends to lag behind support for other gay rights such as partner benefits, civil unions, and employment non-discrimination, this generation must be pretty pro-gay in general), there has to be a significant overlap. Hulbert scrambles to find possible reasons for that overlap, but the most obvious one (to me) never seems to occur to her.
Liberals could take heart that perhaps homosexual marriage has replaced abortion as the new “equality issue” for Gen Nexters, suggested John Russonello, a Washington pollster whose firm is especially interested in social values;
Oh, so close! And yet, so far. Looked at a certain way, they are both “equality issues” — one concerns the unborn human being’s equal right to life, and the other concerns GLBTs’ equal civil rights. It’s just that many pro-choicers (want to bet money on Hulbert’s and Russonello’s positions?) have never looked at it that way, and have no idea that we do. If the only reason you can think of for anyone to be pro-life is that they are conservative moralizers who want to control other people, then you have to come up with some pretty convoluted theories indeed to explain these poll results. I prefer to think that the younger generation may be coming around to the idea of embracing our common humanity — and not a moment too soon.