HomeLearning CenterYoung Men and Women Are Diverging Politically.  This Could Shape the 2024 Election

Young Men and Women Are Diverging Politically.  This Could Shape the 2024 Election

Originally published by Ronald Brownstein for CNN

Democrats are facing the threat of a gender gap that could imperil the traditional advantage among younger voters that the party has enjoyed for decades and that President Joe Biden likely needs to defeat former President Donald Trump.

While Democrats are counting on a big backlash among younger women against the rollback of abortion rights to help propel Biden, a backlash among younger men against changing gender roles could help lift Trump.

Both younger men and women are broadly discontented with the economy and Biden’s job performance, polls show. But the anger and frustration over the 2022 Supreme Court decision overturning the federal right to abortion provides Biden a powerful tool to expand his support among young women unhappy with him on other fronts, strategists in both parties agree. For many younger women, pollsters say, the loss of abortion rights has become not only a threat in itself, but a symbol of a broader attempt to reverse women’s gains in economic status and pressure them back into more traditional gender roles.

Meanwhile, Biden faces a dual challenge with younger men: Not only is abortion less of a motivating issue for them, but there’s evidence that many of them are receptive to the messaging of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement, with its implicit promise to restore traditional racial and gender hierarchies. In a striking new Pew Research Center national survey, for instance, fully two-fifths of the men younger than 50 who are supporting Trump agreed that women’s gains in society have come at the expense of men. That was not only more than double the share of younger Biden-supporting men who agreed with that sentiment, but considerably larger even than the share of older Trump-supporting men who agreed.

All this suggests that while cultural attitudes may help Biden overcome economic discontent among younger women, an amorphous but insistent sense of cultural marginalization may reinforce Trump’s economic inroads among younger men.

Researchers say democracies across the Western world are experiencing a widening partisan and ideological gap between younger men and women. In a much discussed article earlier this year, Financial Times columnist John Burn-Murdoch pointed to survey data in a variety of countries showing that young men were far more likely to identify as conservative than young women. “In countries on every continent, an ideological gap has opened up between young men and women,” he wrote.

That gap has widened in the US, too, though the evidence shows that it is growing more because young women are ideologically moving to the left than because young men are moving to the right. Merged annual results from NBC polls conducted by a bipartisan team of Democratic and Republican pollsters document the trends.

In 2013, the share of young men aged 18-29 who called themselves conservative very slightly exceeded the share who identified as liberal, while the reverse was true for young women, according to results provided by Public Opinion Strategies, the GOP half of the partnership that conducts the NBC poll. For each gender, though, the balance between conservatives and liberals was nearly even.

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