A blue fish in a red sea
Ellie Dombrowski | Thursday, January 24, 2019
Where I am from, Republicans are like unicorns: mythical creatures that we may never see in our lifetime, but we believe to exist. Maybe this is because I was raised in New York, or maybe I just didn’t look hard enough. Either way, coming to Notre Dame opened my eyes. These unicorns that I didn’t quite believe to exist were here right before me, and — let me tell you — there was an sea of them. I grew up surrounded by like-minded, bold, loud individuals with the same views as myself. I knew that there were older Americans, like my grandparents, that were Republicans. But, they always seemed like the minority to me, not the majority. This is when the mold started to break: I started to realize that not only were Republicans real, but they could very well represent the majority of my generation. The reality is that times change, and with it do votes. Some elections there will be an abundance of youths who are liberal; some elections there will not. For example, seniors (ages 65 and up) gave the “highest percentage of votes in 1992” to Bill Clinton rather than George H. W. Bush.
Now, they tell you that a lot is going to change freshman year. But in no way did I think that I would be going to school with a plethora of unicorns. This begs the question “are young adults today merely deviating from the liberal trend that we expect to see? Is this just a blip?” Data collected at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) would suggests that it’s not. UCLA has been meticulously polling incoming freshman for more than 50 years on their political views, and have hardly found that the youths of America are all liberals. During the Obama-McCain 2008 election, it was polled that “freshman in 35 years — 30.3 percent of men and 37.4 percent of women — described themselves as liberal or left. Combined, that matches the 33 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds who described themselves as liberals in 2012.” Therefore, we can conclude that the data collected from freshman of 2008 are representative of their future political stances. Contrarily, during the Obama-Romney 2012 election, the percentage of men and women decreased four and five percent respectively from the 2008 election. Although this is approximately 10 percent higher than in the Reagan administration, this is still a dramatic decline for the Democratic Party.
Confronted with my ignorance, I had to come to the realization that individuals do not merely tend to grow more conservative and less liberal with increasing age. So, was I wrong to assume that my generation is liberal? If age isn’t the driving factor, what is? Studies in 2016, conducted after one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent history, would suggest this is not just a blip in the system and we shouldn’t be shocked by it either. Youths are particularly malleable: Their tendencies for political parties often times depend on the public’s view of success that the previous presidential term had. For example, former President George W. Bush is generally viewed as a failure compared to the Reagan administration, and thus more individuals rebelled from the Republican Party during and after his term. On the other hand, those that grew up during the Obama presidency tend to reflect the democracy of the nation.
So, what does this say about Trump’s America? The most recent UCLA data suggests that liberalism is on the rise again, and this could be to revolt against the Trump administration. It was reported that “the largest gender gap in self-reported liberalism to date (12.2 percent)” occured in the most recent election. In 2016, UCLA reported that 41.1 percent of women reported as liberal or far left, and only 28.9 percent of men. This is the largest number of reportedly liberal women in the past 10 years.
Now I know more of what to expect from my freshman and my generation. But it is reassuring that I am not only the only liberal in my freshman class, but there are a lot more women like me than I thought. Just as Malala Yousafzai said,”I raise up my voice — not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard … we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.