There is an old, some might say outdated, rule that one should not discuss religion or politics in polite company. Women have traditionally been more concerned with social norms and politeness, but among younger generations, they are the ones rejecting this traditional advice.
New polling from State Policy Network shows that young women in both political parties are significantly less likely than their older counterparts to say they have stopped talking about politics and policy because it is too divisive. Among women, 61 percent of Boomers have stopped talking politics — compared to 51 percent of Generation Z, or those born since 1997.
What’s more, the differences are even more dramatic when you look at partisans. There is a 20-point difference among partisan women between the youngest and oldest generations. Political young women talk more about their views than their older counterparts, shedding old notions about the taboo of political conservations.
Young Republican men and women appear to be fairly in sync on the issue, with only minor differences between the genders. But among young Democrats, there is a wide gap between the willingness of men and women to talk about politics with friends and family. Fewer than half (42 percent) of Democratic women in Generation Z have stopped talking about politics compared to 62 percent of their male counterparts. Younger voters are generally less shy about talking politics, but young Democratic men are significantly different from the rest of their generation—holding back their true political beliefs at a much higher rate.
Party affiliation is not the same as ideology, and young women are considerably more liberal than young men. It’s possible young Democratic men share a party but differ in ideology from the women in their social circles.
In addition to having more political conversations, young voters are more likely to lose friends or stop associating with people because of politics. While one-third of Americans say they have cut social ties due to politics, 43 percent of Generation Z have done this. That number rises to more than half when looking at Democrats in the youngest generation.
These figures may explain why Democrats are far less likely to report having friends on the other side of the political divide. Three out of 10 Democrats say they don’t have any Republican friends — while that number is only one in 10 among Republicans. Democrats in Generation Z are far more likely than their party elders to say they have stopped associating with people due to politics — and their increase in this behavior is far outpacing the uptick among Republicans. In short, young Democrats are politically isolating themselves more than Republicans.
The youngest generation of voters has developed values that embrace political conversation in polite conversation. Every young generation changes social norms, and more open conversations about difficult political issues might be Generation Z’s contribution, for better or worse. However, the young women leading this charge appear to be taking divergent approaches. Republican women, with their male counterparts, are talking politics but keeping a politically diverse group of friends, increasing the chance they convince people to support their preferred policies and candidates. Democratic women, on the other hand, are talking more but likely more often to peers who share their views. They are more likely to end social relationships due to political differences, which they seem to be doing to their ideological male counterparts when they aren’t keeping quiet.
If these trends continue, we may see more political conversations and persuasion attempts in polite company. But as it stands today, Republicans are more likely to benefit. To compete, young Democrats must broaden their circles and become more socially tolerant of people who disagree with their views.