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What explains young Americans’ divergent views on homosexuality and abortion?
On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision, creating a constitutional right to abortion and legalizing most abortions nationally.
Later that year, the board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association voted to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
These landmark decisions helped to catapult abortion and homosexuality to the forefront of the culture wars, where they have remained for four decades.
Interestingly, the public’s views on abortion and homosexuality have diverged significantly over the last 40 years — and that divergence is being driven by the changing views of young Americans.
In 1977, American public opinion was divided evenly on the question of whether gay sex should be criminalized, with about 43% of the country believing it should legal and 43% believing it should be illegal, according to Gallup.
By the mid-’80s, Americans had actually grown more conservative on homosexuality, probably in part due to the belief that the emerging AIDS epidemic was caused by gay sex. In 1986, 57% of Americans felt homosexual relations should be illegal, while only 32% felt they should be legal.
Americans’ views slowly changed over the next quarter century. And by 2011, 64% of Americans believed gay sex should be legal.
On gay marriage, the change in public opinion has been more dramatic. In 1996, the first year Gallup began polling the question, 27% of respondents said same-sex marriage should be legal, while 68% said it should not. By 2012, 50% of respondents supported same-sex marriage, while 46% opposed it.
The near-doubling of support for same-sex marriage has been driven by young people.
A 2011 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that while only 31% of Americans over age 65 supported gay marriage, twice as many, 62%, of Americans under 30 supported it.
Even young Republicans have become more supportive of same-sex marriage. A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll found that the share of Republicans age 18-to-29 that supports same-sex marriage grew to 37% in 2012, from 28% eight years earlier.
America has shifted left on many cultural issues — not just on homosexuality and gay marriage but also on the acceptability of contraception, pre- and extra-marital sex, divorce and out-of-wedlock birth. But on abortion America remains stubbornly ambivalent.
In 1995, Gallup found that 56% of Americans identified as pro-choice, while just a third called themselves pro-life.
But at the moment Americans began to become more accepting of same-sex marriage, they were also becoming more pro-life — and, again, that change in sentiment was due to the changing views of young people.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, most polls showed young Americans were the least pro-life of any age cohort.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online