By Dave Andrusko
Yesterday I forwarded “Trump Pushes Young Republicans Away. Abortion Pulls Them Back” to a handful of friends to get their reactions. To provide context, it was written by Maggie Astor, a “political reporter” for the Trump-hating New York Times.
There were many amusing remarks.
My favorite began, “I am sure the reporter was holding her nose because she had to talk to young, pro-life Republicans–and come to think of it, how did the New York Times find these bastions of GOP youth? It must have been like finding the rare albino tiger based on the way the Times writes the rest of the year: ‘Pro-life youth’? Gasp!”
When I read these kinds of stories, I am reminded of the glut of news stories, scholarly accounts, and full-blown books that grew like Topsy after the November 2016 investigating what one writer dubbed “Trumpology.” She defined this as “a nascent genre of reading material exploring a certain portion of the electorate that seems most likely to vote for Donald Trump.”
The difference here is Astor is trying to explain why, despite differences on other issues, young Republicans [18-23] nonetheless stay with the President. It’s abortion.
While this is a straightforward acknowledgement of how important the party’s pro-life position is, it also pulls double duty. It provides Astor the opportunity to tell us that only something this fundamental can outweigh everything else, including their dislike for Trump.
Important side note. A pool of two dozen young Republicans is hardly the last word on how young conservatives feel about President Trump. By every indication, Republicans young and old are remarkably faithful to Trump. But Astor’s not going to let that get in the way of her narrative.
As always, you have to read between the lines and recall what Astor concedes at the beginning (and then ignores for the rest of the story): that what she writes about young Republicans no doubt applies to young Democrats.
In interviews with two dozen Republicans ages 18 to 23, almost all of them, while expressing fundamentally conservative views, identified at least one major issue on which they disagreed with the party line. But more often than not, they said one issue kept them committed to the party: abortion.
(I would ask an obvious follow-up question: Is there anyone, ages 24 to infinity, that doesn’t disagree with “the party line” on “at least one major issue”?)
Astor tells us, “Abortion is not the only issue on which young Republicans lean right,” but that “abortion is, very often, the issue that is sacrosanct — the one that outweighs their concern about climate change, for instance, and their dislike for Mr. Trump.”
The next two paragraphs are very important:
Polling of conservatives indicates that abortion “is becoming a bigger issue to their identity as Republicans,” said Melissa Deckman, a political scientist at Washington College who studies Generation Z. “This is an issue that’s just become nonnegotiable, even among younger people.”
Certainly, many young Republicans said, they would consider crossing the aisle in this election if not for abortion.
She then cites the Harvard University Institute of Politics’ annual survey of 18- to 29-year-olds which we wrote about Tuesday. Astor says it found
that, while 82 percent of Republicans in that age group said they would vote for Mr. Trump over Joseph R. Biden Jr., only 30 percent were closely aligned with Mr. Trump based on an ideology and values questionnaire.
(Be interesting to know what percentage voting for Biden closely aligned with him on ideology and values.)
That tells you three things, two for sure, and one more speculative.
For sure, the importance of opposition to abortion in holding these young Republicans to the party cannot be overstated.
More speculative, young people almost inevitably are more “liberal” on a host of issues than are people 40 and up. This could apply to young GOPers.
If the latter is true, clearly abortion is the anchor issue for young Republicans.