Survey Reveals Conservatism Of Younger Generation

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Young adults have more conservative views about religion and abortion than their elders, a UC Berkeley study released yesterday stated.

The study, which interviewed over 1,000 randomly chosen Americans nationwide of different age, ethnic and gender groups, assessed the political opinions of different generations.

The study noted a significant difference in opinions on abortion between Americans youths aged 15 to 22 and adults aged 27 to 59. Forty-four percent of youths-compared to 34 percent of adults-supported government restrictions on abortions.

Increased media attention to abortion may be responsible for the difference, said Douglas Strand, the study's project director. Additionally, conservative groups in recent years have pressed for more coverage of abortion issues, he said.

"Youths view abortion in a different light," said UC Berkeley student Bret Manley, president of the Berkeley College Republicans. "The debate has changed. It's a more prominently displayed issue in politics than it probably was before when our parents were growing up."

The discrepancy may also be because of a difference in the availability of abortions, since many states restricted abortion prior to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

"Younger women were far less concerned about abortion rights than older women in the last election," said UC Berkeley political science professor Bruce Cain. "And that's because younger women did not live during the era where abortions were not as available. Perhaps people feel abortions are too easy to obtain."

Youths also supported school prayer and federal aid to faith-based charities more than adults.

Sixty-nine percent of youths approved of school prayer at official school activities, 10 percent more than adults.

In addition, two-thirds of young adults supported giving federal aid to faith-based charities, while only 40 percent of adults approved of such funding.

Some researchers said the difference could be a result of increased activism by conservative religious groups while young adults develop their political views.

"The younger people (surveyed) grew up at a time when we had more religious-right messages," said UC Berkeley political science professor Merrill Shanks, who helped conduct the study. "A lot of adults already had an attitude about these issues. Young people, not having formed an attitude, might be more likely to be swept along."

Although young adults surveyed said they approved of federal funding of religious-based organizations and school prayer, they were less likely to attend religious services regularly or to consider religion a guide in their daily life than adults surveyed.

But the younger generation's

support for federal aid to faith-based charities may not be because of religious reasons but instead because of the youths' increased civic awareness and activism, said UC Berkeley student Tom De Simone, president of the Cal Berkeley Democrats.

"Our generation seems to support the idea of the community getting involved, charities getting involved, and often those are tied to religious-based organizations," De Simone said.

The study's findings may reflect changes in demographics through which immigrant U.S. minorities with strong religious backgrounds have flourished, Cain said.

"There may be more appeal for conservative social positions for whatever reasons, including changing social composition," Cain added. "There may be more sympathy for conservative opinions than for the baby boomers who are in the power."

The long-term goal of the study is to create a continuing survey to evaluate change in political opinion and how people react to political leaders over time, Shanks said.

The study was released by UC Berkeley's Survey Research Center.


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