It’s no surprise that Presentation is filled to the brim with liberal-minded students and teachers, but is that really how the majority of high school students in the United States identify? When people think of teenagers and their political beliefs, gun-control, abortion rights and Bernie Sanders usually come to mind, but this fails to represent the whole of the teenage population in America..
According to The Denver Post, 29% of teenagers age 13-17 identified as Democrats, while 23% identified as Republican. Only 3 in 4 of this group could identify their party preference.
Certainly, liberal beliefs amongst young people are louder than their conservative counterparts, but they aren’t as dominating in the rest of the United States as at Presentation. According to Time Magazine, 29% of high school seniors in the United States identified as conservative in 2015. This has risen from 23% in 2000 and represents a group more conservative than teens in the 1980s during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
iGen, the generation born between 1995 and 2012, holds both liberal and conservative values according to Time Magazine. On the liberal side, iGen is more likely to support abortion rights, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization and less likely to support the death penalty. On the conservative side, iGen is less likely to support gun control, socialized medicine and environmental regulations.
In contrast, 11.4% of students from Presentation identify as conservative and 15.8% find that their beliefs align most closely the Republican Party if asked to choose between the two major parties leaving 64.9% identifying as liberal and 84.2% finding their beliefs identify most closely to the Democratic Party.
The political ideologies of Presentation students, however, aren’t binary. 26.3% of Presentation students identify as centrist, or moderate on the political spectrum.
People tend to become more conservative as they age. According to Pew Research Center, 31% of Boomers (born 1946-1964) and 36% of Silents (born 1925-1945) described themselves as Conservative Republicans or Republican leaning, while only 17% of Millennials (born 1980-1994) and 23% of Generation X (born 1965-1979) described themselves as Conservative Republicans or Republican leaning.
Why does this generational shift in political ideology occur?
“I think there is an idealism to youth and part of that is financial and once people start making money, they develop more conservative views on taxes… It’s great to have this egalitarian value [that] everyone should have a basic standard of living, but then when that means you’re paying for it, people kind of realize Oh, that’s coming from my paycheck?” says AP American Government teacher Dr. Andrea Duwel.
“If you think about someone who’s 70 [years old] when the Supreme Court says states can’t deny same-sex couples the right to marry, that’s somebody who’s lived for 70 years of their life under one system, so they might be very attached to that system… whereas if you have someone who’s 15, they’re going to be… less attached to how things have been done,” says Duwel.
The bottom line is that political beliefs are not static. No matter how strong your political beliefs are, they could change as you grow and face new experiences in your life. Who knows? If you identify as a Democrat today, you could identify as Republican in a few years and vice versa. What’s important is that you don’t close yourself off to new ideas and never stop learning. Learn from others around you, especially those who hold opinions that differ from yours.