Those wacky kids baffle The New York Times

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.

6 thoughts on “Those wacky kids baffle The New York Times

  1. Good news. Hopefully this generation won’t buy into either party line.

    Not to dampen the importance of this: one thing that may skew these statistics is that I hear polls show that many young people tend to shift their views from pro-life to pro-choice during college. The objects of this study were right in that age range. So it is possible part of the pro-life group in this poll won’t stay Pro-life. Of course, we can hope that some of the pro-choice group might change their minds as well.

    But, hey, if even a minority of this generation starts thinking for themselves about violence and human rights without the Republican or Democratic parties we are making progress. Who knows someday we might see a Consistent Life candidate beat the two parties? Now I might be getting too optimistic.

    Great work you are doing here. I’m glad I found your site.


  2. Well, I’ve never been ahead of the curve before, but, yay! It pleases me to no end to see these trends.

    Keep up the good work, Jen.

  3. Jonathan: yes, good point about people tending to become more pro-choice during college. I have several theories about that, one of them being that it’s simply the time when many people become sexually active, and they look around them and see how disrupted their lives would be if they conceived a child. This is where programs like FFL’s College Outreach can help, by showing people that they don’t have to give up their own lives and hopes if a pregnancy occurs. I think college is also a time when a lot of people are questioning the beliefs (including religious beliefs) that they grew up with. It’s really helpful to have non-religious arguments against abortion so that people don’t, ah, throw the baby out with the bathwater. So to speak.

    John: be a trendsetter! :)

    Matt: it is interesting. I’ve noticed that it was trending this way for the last two or three years at least, but this is the first time I’ve seen any press about it.

  4. Academia tends to be overwhelmingly hostile to the right to life. Students are basically taught that it’s anti-woman, right wing, etc. to be pro-life. Most of them aren’t that, so they go with the program they’re taught, which is being “pro-choice” is part of the package with other things they believe.

    A big counter to that is the knowledge we have today that wasn’t around when I was in college. With ultrasound, operations being done in the womb, etc., the old argument that it was just a blob of tissue doesn’t fly anymore. The other side keeps getting forced to try to find new arguments. But it’s not their arguments that mostly draws people into their camp; it’s the package it’s portrayed as being a part of although logically it doesn’t fit it all that well.

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