Staff Columnist

Shun purity, apathy and cast a ballot

Study: 30 percent of women, ages 18 to 35, don't anticipate voting in November

A voter checks in at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A voter checks in at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

When it comes to voting in the upcoming midterm election, my millennial daughters appear to be outliers of their generation.

CBS News and Refinery29 continued their ongoing partnership by commissioning a YouGov poll of young females. There are a couple of minor surprises tucked into the responses of women between the ages of 18 and 35, as well as an indicator that feminist self-identification is on an up-swing.

Some of what was expected:

• Most younger women are either angry (36 percent) or dissatisfied (34 percent) with Donald Trump’s presidency, and a majority (58 percent) believe people can “almost never” trust Trump.

• A majority (70 percent) believe the country is going in the wrong direction, and a high percentage (46 percent) want Democrats to take control of Congress.

• Most (53 percent) believe Trump’s policies have hurt women, and a strong majority (70 percent) believe their individual rights and liberties are being threatened by actions in Washington, D.C.

• Younger women are cautiously optimistic (50 percent) that the #MeToo movement will make things better; although the next highest group (37 percent) don’t believe it will change things at all.

• A majority (62 percent) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, most (66 percent) believe laws concerning the sale of guns should be more strict and that human activity is resulting in climate change. And nearly three-quarters (74 percent) believe health care should be accessible, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.

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Where my daughters differ is on their enthusiasm and intention to vote. The survey found that despite feeling rights are being threatened and overall distrust of the Republican majority and Trump, only 57 percent of women surveyed were registered to vote and less than half (44 percent) described themselves as very or somewhat enthusiastic to do so in November. In fact, 56 percent said they held little or no enthusiam for voting.

Perhaps most dismaying, 30 percent reported they would either not vote or be unlikely to cast a ballot. At the heart of this, based on other responses, are two issues that plague most Americans: Apathy, or a feeling of not making a difference, and purity tests, or an inability to support candidates who don’t fully embrace personally-held values.

Looking at purity first, perfect candidates are mythical creatures. Yet a majority of those surveyed said candidates earning their vote must agree with them on gun policy, immigration, abortion, health care and the environment. Good luck.

On apathy, question after survey question received large “it won’t make a difference” responses. Yet it was this attitude of hopelessness that fed into the rise of Trump, someone survey respondents singled out as untrustworthy and bad for women.

About 10 percent more younger women are ready to claim the feminist moniker than just a few years ago. That’s a move in the right direction, but not the end game.

We need to find more ways to empower women in society, to let them know not only that they can raise their voices, but that their voices (and votes) matter. As the young women actively seeking better gun control remind audiences at their rallies, a massive millenial march to the polls could swing elections up and down the ballot.

And, just as a hungry person wouldn’t turn away half a sandwich, progressives must shun unsustainable polarization. Getting 60, 50 or even 40 percent of what you desire is always better than getting nothing. Ask an evangelical.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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