Facts & Figures

  • Changing Politics of Young Men and Women
  • Religious Divide Over Abortion
  • Disaffiliation and Loneliness

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.

Religious Disaffiliation and Loneliness. The act of leaving religion can be difficult. Americans who leave their childhood religion report more acute feelings of social isolation and disconnection. This is especially true for those who disaffiliate from more conservative faith traditions. Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) former evangelical Protestants report feeling lonely or isolated from those around them all or most of the time. Significantly fewer former mainline Protestants (28 percent) and former Catholics (23 percent) say the same. This may be because leaving a religious community often results in severing important social ties and shredding systems of support. Past research has shown that members of conservative religious traditions often organize more of their social life through their church or place of worship. Given that many if not most of the people they know belong to the same place of worship, it’s not hard to see why leaving religion can result in increased feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

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