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Friday, July 3, 2020

Frontline: Changing views in U.S. parallel Ireland’s shift in politics

Opinions of the editorial board

Last Friday, Ireland took a huge step in the right direction for human rights. For the first time in 35 years, women have more rights than an embryo.

Citizens of Ireland voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment, a restrictive law allowing abortion only when a woman’s life is at risk.

Two Irish archbishops saw the vote as evidence of a societal pull away from the church-dominated past. They weren’t the only ones to note the shift away from Catholic traditions.

“No single moment better captures the quiet but rapid revolution in social attitudes that has taken place in less than 40 years – one that has turned a closed, conservative Catholic country into one of Europe’s most liberal, outward-looking states,” the editorial board of The Irish Times wrote Sunday.

This comes two years after Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote, another significant step away from conservative Catholic ideology.

While Ireland takes one step forward for human rights, it seems the United States has taken two steps back. Earlier this month, President Trump proposed cutting federal funding to any clinic that provides abortions or refers patients somewhere where they can (RE: Planned Parenthood).

“No single moment better captures the quiet but rapid revolution in social attitudes that has taken place in less than 40 years,”

Editorial board of The Irish Times

Ireland has shown the world the liberal opinions of its people, while our administration is taking forceful steps in a more conservative direction. It seems we as a country become more polarized by the day.

Ireland national broadcaster RTÉ reported support for the repeal was strongest among young voters ages 18-24 and decreased with age. The only age group with a majority “no” vote for the appeal was voters 65 and older.

This shows a general shift in ideologies that is mirrored in the United States. A study released in April by the Public Religion Research Institute shows one-third of Americans ages 18-29 say their views on abortion have changed in recent years.

The study showed 25 percent of young adults said they have become more supportive of abortion rights, while 9 percent have become more opposed.

The institute found that generally, young people in the U.S. view abortion favorably. The institute found they’re more likely to agree that abortion should be legal, that health care professionals should provide abortions and that abortions should be covered by most health care plans.

The shift to more liberal ideas isn’t limited to reproductive rights. Young people are becoming more vocal about their left-leaning views across the board. We’ve seen a wave of activism for gun control from high schoolers in recent months. Teens who survived the Parkland, Florida shooting were key in stirring support for stricter gun control and are still acting today to push public opinion.

The key component of Ireland’s big change? Votes.

Many Irish citizens living abroad cared so much about voting, they traveled across the globe to cast their ballots. Thousands of people shared images on social media of themselves on airplanes, passports in hand, using the hashtag #HomeToVote.

Social media was a key tool in mobilizing Millennial voters for the 2016 U.S. election. The Pew Research Center reported Millennial voters nearly doubled since the 2008 election, stopping short of surpassing the Generation X vote. The center projected it’s likely to do so in 2020, they wrote.

The repeal of the Eighth Amendment in Ireland symbolizes a shift away from conservative traditional beliefs toward a fresh revival of liberal ideas. Historically, young people in the U.S. have not turned out to vote as much as older generations have. But in 2020, many of those young adults developing liberal opinions will be eligible to cast their ballot, and will already be #HomeToVote.


The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Taylor Nichols, Kira Erickson and Eric Trent


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