A new Monitoring the Future survey indicates a distinct shift in political ideologies among American youth, with a trend of boys leaning conservative while girls are increasingly identifying as liberal.
In the latest three-year span, roughly one quarter of high school senior boys identify as conservative or “very conservative”, almost double the 13 percent who identify as liberal or very liberal. This statistic diverges from the late 2000s when liberal boys would often outnumber conservatives.
This shift is mirrored in the young female demographic, with the percentage of 12th-grade girls identifying as liberal rising from 19 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2022. Furthermore, women between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to identify as liberal now than at any point in the past two decades, according to Gallup surveys. This growing liberal trend among young women, coupled with the relatively stable political leanings of young men, has caused a widening gender gap in political beliefs.
According to polling from NBC News, Generation Z as a whole favors liberalism over conservatism by a 48-to-33 margin. A mere decade ago, this demographic was evenly split between the two ideologies. Despite these trends, it is important to note that a substantial portion of high school senior boys, over two-fifths, claimed no political alignment at all.
The increasing polarization between the sexes was highlighted in a chart by Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University, in her new book, “Generations.” Twenge asserts, “Among liberals, the future is female. And among conservatives, the future is male.”
The shift toward liberal ideologies among young women is often attributed to political developments such as the Donald Trump presidency and the conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court. The potential impact of Trump’s rhetoric, described as “overt hypermasculinity,” and his popularity in male-dominated spaces such as video game lobbies, suggests a possible influence on the conservative trend among young men.
The conservative wing of the Republican party, including figures such as Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have attracted male support through criticism of “woke” ideology and perceived overreach by liberals in addressing racial, gender, and sexual orientation issues.
The trend among young men is also apparent in digital spaces such as social media and gaming circles. Conservative influencers like Dennis Prager, Ben Shapiro, and Steven Crowder attract millions of followers on platforms such as YouTube, where viewing suggestions can expose users to conservative media.
These trends, however, do not imply an increased level of political engagement among high school students. For example, Tyler Brown-Dewese, a student at American University (AU) who identifies as a “Bill Clinton Democrat,” recalls that his high school peers were mostly Republicans but largely politically inactive.