Facts & Figures

  • A College-Educated Party?
  • Changing Politics of Young Men and Women
  • Religious Divide Over Abortion

A College-Educated Party? The Democratic Party has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last two decades. Nearly half (48 percent) of Democrats today have a four-year college degree, a dramatic increase since the last 1990s when only about one in four had a college education. Much of this change is the result of the growing number of college-educated women who identify as Democrat. In the late nineties, only 13 percent of Democrats were college-educated women, but they make up 28 percent of the party today. In contrast, the educational profile of Republicans has changed little over the last two decades. In the late 1990s, three in ten Republicans had a college education, while roughly as many (31 percent) have a college education today.

Changing Politics of Young Men and Women. For much of the past two decades, young women and men have had similar political profiles. But the ideological differences between them grew rapidly over the past few years as young women became increasingly liberal. In 2021, 44 percent of young women consider themselves liberal, compared to only one quarter (25 percent) of young men, a nearly 20-point gender gap. A decade earlier, roughly similar numbers of young men (27 percent) and young women (30 percent) identified as liberal. These changes are also reflected in the diverging views about societal change. Young women stand out for their support for changing social norms in American society, including more women serving in the military, more children having gay or lesbian parents, and more men staying home with children. There are a few possible explanations for the expanding gender divide between young men and women. The growing disparity in educational attainmentdistinct approaches to gender identity and sexual preferences, and even the visceral dislike of Donald Trump may contribute to the rapidly changing political orientations between the two groups.

Religious Divide Over Abortion. The Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 50-year-old ruling that legalized the right to abortion in the U.S. But Americans consistently show support for legal abortion in at least some circumstances. A majority (56 percent) of the public says abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Approximately four in 10 (41 percent) say it should be illegal. Notably only one in 10 (11 percent) Americans say abortion should be illegal without any exception.

Views differ significantly across religious traditions, but few religious groups oppose the legal right to an abortion. White evangelical Protestants register the strongest opposition to legal abortion. Seventy-eight percent of White evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Only 20 percent say abortion should be legal. A majority (55 percent) of Hispanic Catholics also believe abortion should be illegal. In contrast, a majority of White Catholics (56 percent), White mainline Protestants (59 percent), and Black Protestants (65 percent) say abortion should be legal. No group more strongly supports the legal right to abortion than religiously unaffiliated Americans—86 percent say it should be legal in at least most cases.

American Interactives
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