Your daughters are abandoning you over abortion, Republicans

It’s no secret that children often adopt the political attitudes of their parents, especially when they grow up in households where the parents are politically engaged and political discussion is common. This phenomenon, called political socialization, occurs in households across the political spectrum. As explained by Daniel Cox, the head of the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life, it also plays out in homes in which political leanings are less partisan but still gravitate towards one party.  

There is one critical exception to this pattern, one which explains why this generational consistency is higher in Democratic-leaning households than in Republican ones. As explained by Cox, writing for his ”Storylines” Substack, just 44% of young women raised in GOP households report they are Republican as adults, in contrast to 67% of young men. 

That singular distinction, as explained by Cox in an interview with POLITICO’s Calder McHugh, is due to a number of factors, including more LGBTQ+ acceptance among young women, the influence of higher education, and the repellent nature of the Republican Party in its current incarnation under Donald Trump.

But thanks to the heedless actions of the U.S. Supreme Court, the most decisive issue now for young women, according to Cox, is abortion.

As Cox told POLITICO: 

Our surveys found that after the overturn of Roe, there was a huge increase in concern about abortion among young women. In our pre-election survey in 2022, we found that no issue is more important to young women than abortion — far more than the general public. So that is something that I think will continue to be an important issue and an important dividing line between young women — a largely pro-choice group — and where the GOP is. I don’t see that changing in the near future.

As observed by Jill Lawrence, writing for The Los Angeles Times, the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe continues to be the most important factor to explain recent Democratic electoral successes. It’s quite simply the most dominant factor driving partisan turnout among Democrats,  even overshadowing issues like glaring Republican incompetence and the threat to they pose to democracy.

Now, thanks to their ascendant theological wing, Republicans have a rapidly metastasizing abortion problem that could tilt close races to Democrats across the country — even in blue states where abortion is legal and available.

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Democrats have many other strong arguments to make this year, from the thriving Biden economy to preserving democracy (the top voter issue in one recent poll) to the House GOP rejection, at Trump’s urging, of a tough bipartisan border deal that Biden embraced and the Senate was ready to pass. [Tom] Suozzi used an “all of the above” approach in New York, and it worked.

All of those are crucial. Still, it is hard to find anything comparable to abortion when it comes to personal pain, self-determination and downstream effects that are uncomfortably reminiscent of Gilead, where “The Handmaid’s Tale” unfolds. 

Lawrence persuasively points out that, in California and New York alone, there are eight toss-up House seats held by Republicans, seats that can be flipped with the considered circumstance of a few hundred or thousand votes, citing the Cook Political Report. Flipping just these seats could ensure Democrats regain control of the House in 2024.

Lawrence notes that Democratic pollsters are well aware that they’re witnessing one of those rare, transformative shifts that can fundamentally alter the nation’s political trajectory. 

As Democratic strategist Tom Bonier noted last month on X, formerly known as Twitter, the recent New York special election to replace expelled Republican fraudster George Santos is a great example. 

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Lawrence also notes that the abortion issue will be salient for the 2024 Senate races in Arizona, Ohio, and Montana. In Pennsylvania, likely Republican nominee David McCormick has tried to shape-shift on the issue, scrubbing his website of forced-birther tropes in his quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. Similar efforts were made by the forced-birth proponent in last year’s state supreme court election, to no avail; this crass obfuscation has already surfaced in the Commonwealth’s upcoming Congressional races.

Idaho teenagers protest the 2022 Dobbs decision alongside their elders.

Back on Substack, Cox explains why the GOP’s seemingly unalterable and collective cluelessness on just how important this issue is to young women is leading to electoral disaster. He notes that “the refusal of many GOP party leaders to seek common ground, to acknowledge the moral complexity of the issue or the potential health implications of abortion restrictions, has created a massive chasm between the party and young women.”

That cluelessness could be politically fatal. As a party that has historically cleaved to patriarchal notions of power and sexual hierarchies, the GOP is ill-equipped to deal with a resurgence in female voter intensity. As observed by Cox in Business Insider in January, young American men don’t yet seem to appreciate just how “cataclysmic” this shift in attitudes actually is; many of them have instead retreated into their own resentments and insecurities. 

Cox writes:

A survey we conducted after Roe v. Wade was overturned and just before the 2022 midterms found that no issue mattered more for young women than abortion: 61% said it was a critical concern, while only 32% of young men said the same. In the 2022 midterm elections, all young voters strongly supported Democratic candidates, but young women demonstrated much greater support than men.

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As women’s political priorities have solidified, young men’s priorities have melted into mush. Surveys consistently show that young men are far less likely than women to say any particular issue is personally important to them. A survey we conducted last year found that young women expressed statistically significant greater concern for 11 out of 15 different issues, including drug addiction, crime, climate change, and gun violence. There was not a single issue that young men cared about significantly more than young women.

And that’s the Republican problem in a nutshell: Women—especially younger women—bear the brunt of abortion bans, which are far more likely to limit their futures, their options, their choices, and their autonomy—and they’re rightfully pissed.

And so, for many of them, it no longer matters whether Mom or Dad voted Republican all of their lives. What matters is what’s happening right now, and which political ideology supports reproductive rights, and which one supports forced birth. 

The fury of today’s young women, electorally, far outweighs any backlash generated from their young male counterparts.

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