Young Men Becoming More Right-Wing?

Some interesting (and potentially disturbing) polling trends.

Kevin Drum posted the above chart and did a little bit of research in an attempt to figure out what to make of it.

A few days ago I came across a chart showing that high school boys had gotten suddenly more conservative over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, after a frustrating search I was unable to track down the source data, so eventually I gave up on it and moved on.

But I’ve since seen a couple of similar claims, though without much data to back them up. For example, one survey shows that Gen Z men are a little less likely than others to say “Feminism has made America a better place.” This is mildly suggestive but hardly evidence of a sharp turn to the right. That’s especially true since other responses from the same survey generally portray Gen Z men as a little more liberal in their views toward women than older men.

None of this is close to definitive. I was still curious, though, so I turned to the good old reliable General Social Survey. They’ve been asking people for decades if they consider themselves liberal or conservative, and they break down the answers in a variety of ways.

What I found was surprisingly clear. In most ways, there’s been little change in political ID. Among Blacks and whites, high school and college educated, married and single, identification as liberal or conservative has bounced around a bit but has generally stayed fairly steady. But there are two exceptions:

Young men were pretty stable in their ID until 2022, when they suddenly and inexplicably started to identify as dramatically more conservative. This spike didn’t show up for either women or for older age groups. Only for young men.

This is about clear as it can be: for some reason, over the course of a single year, young men became noticeably more conservative. But why? Is it related to either the pandemic or the backlash to pandemic protections such as masking? Is it related to Donald Trump and his crowd of MAGA copycats? Or maybe to the growing popularity of Joe Rogan, Andrew Tate, and other champions of the “new masculinity”? Is it a backlash against wokeness?

Beats me. I can’t make sense of it, and I don’t know if it’s just a brief upsurge or the start of a long-term trend. But for now, at least, it’s real.

I don’t tend to get excited about one-year “trends” but do think there’s something going on that predates 2021.

The chart Drum posted and I copied is from a report titled “State of American Men 2023: From Crisis and Confusion to Hope” by something called the Equimundo Center for Masculinities & Social Justice. Their origin story is available on their about page but they identify their mission as “achieve[ing] gender equality and social justice by transforming intergenerational patterns of harm and promoting patterns of care, empathy and accountability among boys and men throughout their lives” and their belief as “male-identified individuals must be active allies in achieving gender equality and full rights for women, girls and non-binary individuals.” That certainly doesn’t read as right-wing to me.

The report’s Executive Summary is detailed but difficult to excerpt because of its formatting. But here’s a taste:

Men in the US are in trouble. Many feel that their futures are uncertain and their identities are threatened. But while the current situation is especially acute, this anxiety has always been built into boyhood and manhood. Told to “man up” or “be a real man,” boys and men who inevitably cannot meet the impossible, overlapping standards of toughness, self-sufficiency, dominance, and stoicism have their very identity withheld from them. Masculine norms such as these govern every aspect of men’s and boys’ lives and are woven into family life, schools, sports, and other community spaces. Such norms deprive young men of more caring alternatives, ways to confidently own their identity as caring, emotionally connected, cooperative people. Many feel totally disconnected and retreat to private lives of underachievement, underemployment, and online addiction – and to the pretense that they can go it alone. Some may find solace in misogyny and white supremacy. Certainly, too many men ignore or oppose the necessary action we all need for women’s equality and racial justice. Some men’s anger and their clinging to harmful ideas about manhood are hurting all of us.

When two-thirds of young men feel that “no one really knows” them, as this study shows, they reveal the fragility of their connections and relationships. We take that finding for what it is: a call for more honest, more grounded, more connected, and more meaningful lives. We know the results of this study will be troubling for many. Conservative voices may say that we are calling out men, blaming them, or maligning American manhood. But our study is a call for all of us to show compassion to men and to build and support healthy, connected versions of manhood for the good of all.

This is a classic case of my visceral self being at odds with my intellectual self, in that I largely agree both with the stated agenda of the report authors and fully understand why “conservative voices” have the reaction they do.

A few years back, I got a bit of backlash (and quite a bit of agreement) in my work circles for stating in an interview about the Marines United scandal that the Marine Corps had a problem with toxic masculinity. While things have gotten better since then through the efforts of higher leadership, there’s a structural problem inherent in a force that overwhelmingly recruits young men through direct appeals to prove their manhood that is trying to simultaneously expand the role of women in the service.

Unfortunately, “toxic masculinity”—like “white privilege,” “structural racism,” and so many others—is an example of what James Carville refers to as “faculty lounge language.” While excellent as specialist jargon, they inevitably repel people in ordinary conversation because they’re easily misunderstood. So, while one would think a basic understanding of how adjectives work would obviate the problem, referring to “toxic masculinity” inevitably draws the reaction “What the hell’s your problem with masculinity?!”

Similarly, while I think the increased focus on sexual harassment and workplace climate in the wake of the #MeToo scandals is overdue, the training itself is often counterproductive. If done well, it opens the aperture of men and boys to understand that behavior they think is merely jocular or flirty can be burdensome or even threatening. If done poorly, though, it comes across as “all men are disgusting pigs” and creates backlash. Shorthands like “Believe Women,” while well-intentioned, are harmful, in that they reverse the presumption of innocence and justify nonsense like the Pence Rule.

I’m skeptical that young men are suddenly swinging MAGA. But they’re certainly Joe Rogan’s target demographic. Ditto Jordan Peterson. But neither of them suddenly became popular last year; indeed, the bulk of media reactions to the latter came in 2018.

I do think there’s genuine confusion and angst among young men as to their role in the world in a way that didn’t exist when I was young. Feminism was in full swing when in grade school (Betty Friedan’s Feminist Mystique was published almost three years before I was born), but its core emphasis was equality for women, not the evils of men.

While I largely agree with the Equimundo report’s assertion that “boys and men who inevitably cannot meet the impossible, overlapping standards of toughness, self-sufficiency, dominance, and stoicism have their very identity withheld from them,” I also think that the old standards gave boys and men a sense of purpose. Sure, being the provider, the protector, and the fighter can be daunting and give a sense of not measuring up. Especially when the modern office-based workplace no longer advantages physical strength but rather prioritizes cooperation and interpersonal skills at which women are more likely to excel.

Add in regular messaging about toxic masculinity, male privilege, and the awfulness of the patriarchy, it’s not at all surprising that a call to return to an imagined better past is appealing.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Gender Issues, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    This is beyond disturbing. Makes me want to move to an unpopulated island.

    Hopefully they grow up/grow out of this nonsense, like their elder Millennial cohort.

    4
  2. Stormy Dragon says:

    I wonder if there is a corresponding dip in liberal identification, indicating an actual shift, or if this is just “independents” who were really conservatives all along being more likely to identify as such

    3
  3. Andy says:

    This ties in well with the recent Richard Reeves book. Of Boys And Men.

    There are plenty of interviews and op-ed’s on the book if you want to get a taste.

    2
  4. I also think that the old standards gave boys and men a sense of purpose. Sure, being the provider, the protector, and the fighter can be daunting and give a sense of not measuring up. Especially when the modern office-based workplace no longer advantages physical strength but rather prioritizes cooperation and interpersonal skills at which women are more likely to excel.

    I think that the shift clearly has to be to the notion of a sense of purpose linked to being a human being rather than a male. I also don’t think that women are naturally more capable of cooperation and interpersonal skills. Rather, the problem is that the men have to compete on a more level playing field than they did when it was about the feats of strength.

    And I still don’t think that the main problem is “faculty lounge jargon” but rather the fact that men (especially white men) are having to learn to deal with the fact that they no longer have an unfair advantage (or, more accurately that they are losing it–it still isn’t gone).

    It is all about loss of relative power.

    30
  5. Modulo Myself says:

    I grew up in a very homophobic place but it would have been very weird to find my dad or someone like my dad worrying publicly about whether the one obviously gay kid or probably gay teacher was going to turn us all gay. Older men, as a rule, used to have dignity and they left you alone to figure stuff out on your own. When I bought REM CDs I didn’t have to worry if Michael Stipe was going to be on a homophobic watchlist set up by some more clued-in Anita Bryant freak.

    Now it’s Trump and Jordan Peterson and Tucker Carlson and Elon Musk. They’re all hysterical little insecure shits who bring in the big bucks. (Except for Musk.) Adult men act like babies for money, and I think this has got to be a huge problem for boys growing up now. Women don’t have it better. But young women and teenagers by and large get adult lessons: life is hard so look good, the fashion-industrial complex is trying to murder you; but, hey, look your best and feel your best, if that makes sense (it doesn’t). What does Joe Rogan give anybody? Here’s older than dirt and he sounds like a stoned teenager discovering reading for the very first time

    6
  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Saw the Drum piece yesterday and it was the second on that subject. Nate Cohn in the NYT’s covered the data point in more detail recently.

    While I agree that this is about the loss of relative power, it is also a reality that boys are being held to two, often conflicting ideals. Time, life experience and importantly developing a relationship with a partner in life, helps young men sort that out, but college age and immediately post college that hasn’t happened. Contemporary RW ideology on the role of men, provides an easier path, so yes it’s not surprising that there is an uptick in conservatism among young men.

    2
  7. Modulo Myself says:

    One thing missing is that views on bullying, cruelty, and aggression have changed in the past 20 years. There are just many ways to be cruel that kids used to employ without fear of punishment which are no longer acceptable, and young men grew up in this newer world.

    I think it’s for the better, if you can figure it out and do the work of putting yourself in another person’s place. But I think we are seeing at all ages the fact that doing this is a threat.

    2
  8. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, I find the statements awkwardly phrased. Take the first one, “If a guy has a girlfriend or a wife, he deserves to know where she is at all times.” At once extreme, this can mean, “A woman (but not a man) is obligated to report in to her partner at all times, who is entitled to this reporting merely by the fact of his gender.” At the other end, “People who are in a close relationship should not cause their partners unnecessary worry.”* A few of the other questions are like that too. So I wonder if some of the spread in answers have to do with generational differences in how the question is interpreted.

    *Early on when my wife and I were living together she went out with some old high school friends who happened to be in town and she said that she thought she would be home about 10pm. She ended up out with them until 3am and by the time she got home I was frantic. This was before mobile phones. She couldn’t understand why I was worried. I was one step away from calling the hospitals.

    3
  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    To add to the analysis…

    GOP’s booming support for guns is turning off millennial, Gen Z Republicans

    This isn’t really surprising, if your plan to keep schools safe, is active shooter drills, armed guards and arming teachers, the kids who grew up under that regime will search out alternatives when they become adults.

    5
  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is a phenomenon I started worrying about (and boring my wife talking about) more than 30 years ago. It was obvious that men were losing and would continue to lose positions and privileges that were exclusively male. I’m only surprised at how long its taken the backlash to build.

    Men don’t take well to loss of status. Men are dangerous. My hope was that rising generations of men would adapt and find another way to be in the world, a way that did not require special status set-asides. That’s happening to an extent, but apparently it’s not exactly universal.

    I have no solution to offer. It might have helped if society treated these guys with some compassion rather than dancing gleefully on their backs, but that ship has sailed. Men are demonized, and the problem is that while most men are not demons, virtually all demons are men.

    Seen in this context the anti-gay and especially anti-trans hysteria is fueled in large degree by fearful, weak men who actually feel their identities challenged by the actions of people with whom they have no connection.* Set up the Brown Shirt recruiting table.

    So, yep, I had no solution 30 years ago, and I still don’t. There is great potential for violence in all this. Bad moon a risin’.

    (*This is one of the reasons I insist on believing that identity is not something inherent – color, gender – but something earned, created through actions taken. IOW you are not who you say you are, you are what you do. Accomplishment is a more stable basis for self-definition than is group identity. But that admittedly doesn’t really help most men because men are raised on hero narratives but have mundane lives. Men want to feel special and very few are.)

    11
  11. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It is all about loss of relative power.

    I hear that said and written a lot – what is the evidentiary basis for that sweeping judgment?

    3
  12. reid says:

    I think that a huge problem with this sort of thing, whatever the subject, is that there are people on one side doing their best to do “good”, and then there are people on the other side willing to propagandize it into something that receptive people will be angered about. We’ve seen it with CRT and “woke”. It’s disturbing and almost guarantees we will not make any progress.

    4
  13. Jay L Gischer says:

    Well, this is quite topical. Just two days ago, my sister and BIL were here for a visit. We had this conversation:

    Sis: Having a therapist is like having another girlfriend. Women talk about these things, but men don’t seem to.
    Me: Well, things aren’t the same now as when I was young. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m older or because times are changed.
    BIL:
    Me: For instance, me and [another sensei at the dojo] had a long conversation after class with one student about his girlfriend troubles. Our main point of advocacy was that, in a relationship, he gets to have needs. He gets to say those needs. In a relationship, nothing else will work, there will be a backlash if the couple doesn’t recognize his needs.

    …….
    This is probably a big driver. The larger social context is very uninterested in the needs of men, particularly young men who don’t hold much power. Be that as it may, relationships don’t work that way, and that holds true regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It just don’t work.

    Hunans have long withheld the identity of “man” from males until they have proven themselves somehow. There aren’t all that many avenues for them to do it these days, though. It’s also true that younger men especially, don’t get the tools for making social connections and networks as quickly as young women do, probably because the culture is oriented toward letting them prove themselves.

    We need to be saying, as a culture, to young men, “You are a man. Come be part of our thing.” The twin message to women is “You are capable of using your body to do powerful and valuable things that aren’t specifically sexual. Come be a part of our thing.”

    4
  14. steve says:

    People are concentrating on longer term issues. I tend to agree with much that has been said, but it doesnt show up in the numbers until now. I remember at our local high school right after Trump was elected it was the boys who walked around the halls chanting the N word and other racial slurs because now it was cool. Conservatism as practiced over the last 40 years has always included better status for males, especially white males so the GOP polls better with males. But why now?

    It could just be a polling anomaly, but I think it most likely a response to the trans movement. Historically, there was a lot of hate and some violence towards gays, but gays worked towards acceptance well before the age of social media dominance. They were well under way before the internet was so prominent. The move towards acceptance of trans people has bloomed while social media has been dominant and the right wing has its own well established media. I think the orchestrated hate and mischaracterization, hell lies, about trans people is percolating down and having an effect on young males.

    Steve

    4
  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    I definitely avoid using phrases like “toxic masculinity”, “white privilege” and “structural racism” except when speaking exclusively to people who know them. These phrases preach to the choir, and are easily misunderstood.

    The concepts behind them are completely valid, but they offer little evangelistic value.

    Now I have been known to use the phrase, “macho bullshit”. But that connects with the people I grew up with. They know what I’m talking about, and they get why it isn’t all that healthy.

    5
  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    My initial thought is to observe that the topic and the discussion revolving around it is that they backdoor into the types of “complementarian” role modeling that we revile when evangelicals propose it. Is it possible that we need to examine our current worldviews about gender, role, and expectations? I don’t have any solutions (partially because I’m not sure how “bad” a thing young males becoming more “conservative” is–or even what that phrase means with the scare quotes included), but, then again, I’m not sure that the issue doesn’t arise out of what some religions think of as the “broken” condition of humanity.

    1
  17. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think that the shift clearly has to be to the notion of a sense of purpose linked to being a human being rather than a male. I also don’t think that women are naturally more capable of cooperation and interpersonal skills. Rather, the problem is that the men have to compete on a more level playing field than they did when it was about the feats of strength.

    I think this goes well beyond “feats of strength” and at least up to the early days of the Feminist revolution and the advancement of Civil Rights (if we are restricting the discussion to White Men).

    I also think this is the type of data that cross-tabs, especially by race and ethnicity, would be especially helpful.

    @Andy:

    I hear that said and written a lot – what is the evidentiary basis for that sweeping judgment?

    I’m a bit confused about this comment as it seems like this is a central thrust of the book, Of Boys And Men, you just recommended. It is specifically looking at employment-based power shifts including the relative decline of the overall percentage of men within the workplace and changes in economic power. See this interview with the author.

    https://www.npr.org/2022/11/04/1133586707/boys-men-labor-force-jobs-gender-gap-workforce

    Or, perhaps we are working from different definitions of loss of power (or just power).

    The topic was also talked around in the New Yorker article that covered the book as well: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/01/30/whats-the-matter-with-men

    2
  18. DK says:

    It’s giving “Red Wave 2022” and “Black men are turning towards Trump” and “Republicans are building a multiracial working class coalition” and “Young voters unenthusiastic” and “Biden’s pro-democracy, anti-MAGA message isn’t resonating” and “LatinX has doomed Democrats” and other breathless, overstated, overrated hot takes of recent past that were mostly duds once the votes came rolling in.

    Media bros remain desperate for any clickbait data point they can find, to try portray Republicans as more popular than they are. Can’t wait to see what they come up with after the next disappointing GQP election cycle, fueled by youth voters, women, educated whites, people of color, gays, and assorted allies.

    Yawn.

    4
  19. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    I’m a bit confused about this comment as it seems like this is a central thrust of the book, Of Boys And Men, you just recommended. It is specifically looking at employment-based power shifts including the relative decline of the overall percentage of men within the workplace and changes in economic power. See this interview with the author.

    Steven’s statement, “It is all about loss of relative power” and its various versions I’ve heard often speak to men’s motivations regarding any dissatisfaction they might have. And I doubt Steven intended this way, but it’s often used to wave away any problems and complaints men might have, suggesting they are illegitimate, and the only actual problem is men having a bad attitude.

    So what is the evidence that this is what motivates men and that any problems they may think they have are not real, but are solely a product of this perceived loss of relative power or status?

    This phrasing also raises two big red flags for me. One is the extremely broad-brush. The other is mind-reading – the assumption that one knows the real motivations of tens of millions of men (anger/regret/whatever at a loss of status or power).

    So again, what’s the evidence?

    By contrast, Reeves takes the problems young men face today seriously and proposes actual solutions. He doesn’t dismiss them as being a bunch of whiners who long for the days when men were more dominant in the culture – times that these young men did not live through and have no experience with.

    2
  20. @Michael Reynolds:

    Men don’t take well to loss of status. Men are dangerous.

    These are both true of human beings as a general matter.

    2
  21. Steven Fetter says:

    The surest way to turn any young person (man or woman) conservative is for authority to be perceived as liberal. Youth rebelling against the status quo is a constant.

    Anecdotally, the majority of late 20 year old young men I interact with are quite conservative on most issues that are discussed here.

    2
  22. @Andy:

    but it’s often used to wave away any problems and complaints men might have, suggesting they are illegitimate, and the only actual problem is men having a bad attitude.

    I am not trying to wave anything. It seems quite clear to me, although likely in ways I am unlikely to prove in a comment box, that the current reactionary sentiment being experienced by some males (not all) as described in the OP is very much about the relative loss of status of males, especially white Christian males, in our society (indeed, globally).

    Maybe it would help me understand what you think the legitimate problems are.

    I am not saying they don’t exist, but on balance, it seems to me that the problem is very much about what happens when the group in a position of power now has to deal with the growing equality of those groups who previously were not treated as equals, whether it be men of color or women in general.

    6
  23. Mu Yixiao says:

    Unfortunately, “toxic masculinity”—like “white privilege,” “structural racism,” and so many others—is an example of what James Carville refers to as “faculty lounge language.” While excellent as specialist jargon, they inevitably repel people in ordinary conversation because they’re easily misunderstood.

    To be fair, any time I hear those phrases being spoken it’s generally in a rant about “the patriarchy” and how all men are evil, and my beard is an affront to the concept of “femaleness” or some other BS. They’re catchphrases that get tosses about to essentially say “I hate you because of what you are”.

    On a tangential note: I was watching Cinema Therapy* on YouTube the other day, and they were reviewing RRR (If you haven’t seen it, set aside 3 hours and watch it!). One of the comments was that the two leads are very “macho” and “masculine”–without being toxic. They’re incredible strong and incredibly strong-willed, but it’s used to help each other out of bad situations, protect the vulnerable, and push for the betterment of society (plus some amazing dance numbers; hey, it’s Bollywood!)

    I hear a lot of women, and see comments in dating profiles, saying “I want a ‘real man’.” I’m pretty sure they’re talking about Kirk Douglas and Humphry Bogart, not Rambo and Steven Segal.

    Back in the 80s, if I held the door open for a woman, I’d often get glared at**. If I do it now, I get a look of pleasant surprise.

    ===
    * A wonderful channel where two best friends–“a therapist who loves movies” and “a film maker who needs therapy”–discuss the psychological and cinematic aspects of various films, characters, and genre.

    ** To be fair, I hold the door open for a man if he’s right behind me, too. It’s just common courtesy.

    3
  24. DK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The last statistics I saw had men account for nearly three-fourths of all criminal arrests, which included about 80% of violent crime, nearly two-thirds of property crime, and ~90% of homicides. And unlike in some other demographic categories, the gender disparity in criminal offense tend to persists through socioeconomic classes, apparently.

    Crime stats can be a flawed metric for so many reasons, but unless women are getting away with a lot of crime, men as a generalized group are indeed a dangerous class of human being (if only relative to other genders, because I don’t believe most human beings of any demo are criminally dangerous to other humans).

    5
  25. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It seems quite clear to me, although likely in ways I am unlikely to prove in a comment box, that the current reactionary sentiment being experienced by some males (not all) as described in the OP is very much about the relative loss of status of males, especially white Christian males, in our society (indeed, globally).

    I’m not asking for proof, I’m asking for evidence. So why is this “quite clear to you?” What evidence brings you to this conclusion?

    1
  26. Jay L Gischer says:

    There is a message that can be found in many forums, addressing itself not to particular men, but to men who are strangers or only vaguely related that, in my paraphrase, goes like this:

    “We don’t care about you. Sit down and shut up. Don’t talk about what’s bothering you, you’re taking up space and time that has better uses.”

    I have seen this message on the opinion page of the NY Times, and other places.

    On one level, yeah there are things that don’t get attention that deserve it. On another level, relationships Do Not Work this way. You’re going to leave men, especially young men who don’t have much of a social network. (Many of the people I know who relay this message, when I ask them about it, say, “Oh, not you“)

    Frankly, being all stoic and handling everything yourself internally and never talking about it is exactly the problem. It is a massive contributor to (ahem!) toxic masculinity.

    3
  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    These are both true of human beings as a general matter.

    The last, oh, 10,000 years of human history, during which time I can state confidently that men committed north of 95% of all violent crimes, suggests otherwise. Violence is kind of our thing.

    5
  28. Modulo Myself says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I hear a lot of women, and see comments in dating profiles, saying “I want a ‘real man’.” I’m pretty sure they’re talking about Kirk Douglas and Humphry Bogart, not Rambo and Steven Segal.

    They’re talking about a guy who is a professional chef, metalworker, or woodworker. He has nice arms and an okay stomach and is funny and mostly has his shit together, financially and emotionally. He doesn’t play many video games, he reads now and then, has some tats and real friends, and is bit of dom in bed but isn’t boring about it.

    Or they are 85 and then they are talking about Kirk Douglas.

    2
  29. Chris says:

    As one part of the big puzzle here, just look to higher education, where female students greatly outnumber their male counterparts. Males are typically and more frequently enticed into low entry level skill jobs, as physical laborers, at a higher rates of pay than is found in entry level retail or food service work. Then, later, when these young males hit a max pay level, they begin to see those who got college degrees as outpacing them from a pay perspective. At this point, the realization sinks in that they are now behind the pay curve. From here, they are angry about their lot in life and see no way out of their stagnant economic positions. So they are ripe for the GOP’s grift messaging which features wholesale hate and stupidity.

    5
  30. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:
    I think the issue may be two different frames of analysis. When Steven or I talk about “loss of power” we consider “power” as an analytical category. An area of inquiry. So in that way, at least I (and expect Steven) see that as a jumping-off point to explore these topics.

    1
  31. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Analytical category or not, the claim is being made about men’s motivations. Like any other claim, it should not simply be accepted as fact.

    1
  32. just nutha says:

    @Andy: Interesting. I’ve read the whole comment 3 times now and am still coming to the same analysis–Dr. Taylor’s comment is a reasonable closing statement to the comment he made above. No sweeping unfounded generalization quality to speak of. As always, YMMV.

    5
  33. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    “It is all about loss of relative power”

    FWIW, and speaking only of myself, I don’t view that statement as dismissive, although I suspect it has less explanatory power than people give it credit for. While it is true that men that are 80 years old or older have seen a dramatic loss of power with respect to women, it is much less true even for me and my 60 year old contemporaries. By the time you get to the “young male” age groups listed here, they haven’t really observed any significant loss of power in their lives due to nationwide changes in gender roles.

    And to go back to my theme above, couldn’t it be possible that the difference has more to do with the stage of life they are at and the comparatively fraught and confusing relationship a, say, 25 year old has with the opposite sex as opposed to a 45 or 50 year old? To actually show that young men are becoming more anti-woman, you would have to demonstrate that the reactions to the same statements 10,20, and 30 years ago in that demographic were substantially different. Even then, I think the statements are so poorly worded I think they are problematic for use in comparisons across time.

    2
  34. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven Fetter: Another way is to get a young male going is to, for example, tell an 18 year old white male, “Shut up! Sit down! You white men have ruled the world for too long and so we are not going to give you as an individual in that category any respect!” In the meantime, he still has to ask his mother to borrow the car.

  35. Gustopher says:

    Before panicking too much, I would want to look hard at polling methodology and whether the results are replicated elsewhere.

    First, a 95% confidence rating means 1 out of every 20 polling results should be mildly whackadoodle, and outside the stated margin of error. It’s something that happens even with well-run surveys, you get outliers.

    (The math gets complicated the further the polled result gets from the actual result, but the important thing for our less statistically inclined readers to know is that if you run the same poll a large number of times, you will get a few fluke results even if the survey is done perfectly.)

    Second, it’s a very weird, very anomalous shift, which would generally suggest a very noticeable cause.

    Covid-19 changes would have been reflected in 2021 data. As would the 2020 election and Jan 6th insurrection. Unless the data collection and release lags and the years don’t mean what we think they mean.

    This looks like a weird data blip at first glance. (Or a change in data collection or question wording, but I would expect shifts in other groups as well)

    I’m not saying that it’s wrong, but that I would need to see collaborating evidence before I take it at face value. (And if I were running that survey, I would rerun it to confirm my result)

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  36. Andy says:

    @just nutha:

    I’ve read the whole comment 3 times now and am still coming to the same analysis–Dr. Taylor’s comment is a reasonable closing statement to the comment he made above. No sweeping unfounded generalization quality to speak of. As always, YMMV.

    I quoted the closing statement which I agree is a reasonable summary to the comments he made above. I’m not just challenging the summary, but the whole argument and am trying to get a sense for what they are based on, if anything.

    And this isn’t necessarily about Steven’s comments specifically. The same and similar ideas I see repeated frequently as conventional wisdom. I would like to hear Steven’s view of the evidence and analysis that supports this view, but I’d like to hear others as well.

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  37. @Michael Reynolds: You didn’t say “violent” you said, “dangerous.” Perhaps you meant violent.

    And I simply don’t accept, as a blanket statement that “men are violent” in some inherent sense.

    More to the point, what I am trying to point out is the wild sweeping statements that are being made.

  38. @just nutha:

    Interesting. I’ve read the whole comment 3 times now and am still coming to the same analysis–Dr. Taylor’s comment is a reasonable closing statement to the comment he made above. No sweeping unfounded generalization quality to speak of. As always, YMMV.

    Indeed. Thanks.

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  39. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    FWIW, and speaking only of myself, I don’t view that statement as dismissive, although I suspect it has less explanatory power than people give it credit for.

    The explanatory power is part of what I’m trying to challenge here.

    And I think the people it’s talking about would find it very dismissive, especially since it’s usually presented as the primary or sole reason for various forms of young male dissatisfaction.

  40. @Andy: I think part of the problem is that we are all perhaps not having the same conversation.

    The OP posits, and there is evidence to this point, that many young men (not all men, I would note, despite many very sweeping statements being made in this thread) are becoming more right-wing.

    As a political scientist, I would go a step farther and note that the current right-wing turn in the US, and especially that is being seen with a lot of young men appears to be of a reactionary nature. Reactionary politics, among other things, contain an appeal to a mythic past (MAGA, for example). One of the things that the mythic US past has is a more white Christian male-centric power structure.

    I think it is quite observable in much of right-wing politics today. It is evident in MAGA. In DeSantis’ anti-wokism. In a lot of the anti-trans stuff. At the root of it all is a desire to go back to the past.

    There is also an awful lot of focus on the traditional family. And this tends to include a clear focus on a specific view of manhood.

    It is very much steeped in a backward-facing POV that would not be happening were it not for the perceived loss of power relative power.

    I think it is analogous to the “persecution” that many American Christians claim. They simply are not persecuted. They are, in fact still culturally dominant–just not as much as they were (back in the past!). It is a relative loss of power.

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  41. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And I simply don’t accept, as a blanket statement that “men are violent” in some inherent sense.

    We have a lot of data and also understand the underlying biology that makes men much more violent than women. Whether that is “inherent” to males or not depends on perspective, I guess.

    More to the point, what I am trying to point out is the wild sweeping statements that are being made.

    And that’s what I’m doing as well.

  42. @Michael Reynolds:

    Violence is kind of our thing.

    BTW, there is a substantial presence of females in Latin American insurgencies. Indeed, this makes think of work done by one of my colleagues.

    Not that I am looking to open the door for more violence by women, part of what you are describing is at least, in part, about opportunties, like a lot of other things that used to be “guys only.”

    But, as I noted in another comment, that really isn’t the conversation that the OP started.

    1
  43. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Adding a bit more about my perspective to this discussion (and perhaps helping us get to the root of the issues), there is also the question of the “loss of relative power.”

    That’s what I was focusing on in my response. I will posit that there is sufficient evidence that men have experienced a “loss of relative power” (which, again, authors like Richard V. Reeves use as a starting off point).

    Rereading this thread, where I think the disagreement lies between you and Steven, is whether or not the two phenomena that were just listed (my comment above about loss of relative power and Steven’s explanation of the right-wing turn) have a causal relationship or a corollary one.

    To get hyper-academic for a sec, I think this ultimately is an epistemological debate. My sense is you are willing to acknowledge a corollary relationship but need specific forms of quantifiable evidence before you are willing to seriously consider the possibility of causation.

    I think Steven (and definitely myself) are both more comfortable with causation because we’re (as social scientists) used to working with a broader range of evidentiary data.

    And because of those epistemological differences, I think we are talking past each other. And I also don’t think any off will be talked off of our positions over what counts as evidence of causation.

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  44. @Andy: Except the violence thing is a sidebar. It was never my central claim. I really have no interest in some discussion of evolutionary biology, as I am not a biologist, let alone an evolutionary biologist (indeed, not sure that anyone on this thread is).

    You asked for evidence of loss of relative power, I provided an explanation for the fundaments of the claim.

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  45. @mattbernius: Indeed all around.

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  46. @Andy:

    And that’s what I’m doing as well.

    Sort of. Maybe.

    I am making a pretty specific claim when I state that the rightward turn in the US, which is more male than female (an empirical fact), is driven by reactionary politics linked to loss of power. (That we are seeing reactionary politics in the US and in places like Hungary and Poland, to name two cases, is also empirically true). But that still isn’t as sweeping as other claims in this thread, especially about violence being a male thing or that males are inherently dangerous.

    TBH, I am not sure what you want, which points to Matt’s epistemological divide thesis.

    1
  47. Modulo Myself says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The thing about a mythic past is nobody wishes to go back to the actual past. What men lost is the situation in which a woman might have to settle and marry the first man she slept with and then be stuck with him forever because she couldn’t earn money to survive on her own and divorce was frowned upon. But nobody dreams of this as their ideal—that would be nuts. The nuclear family was supposed to be about consent and equality. It was not supposed to be a trap.

    I think the very traditional straight male culture is deeply insecure about what to do to keep women interested. It’s only answer is money and knocking the woman up. All of this talk about feminism and biological needs for violence is just a red herring. This is a social problem, and one that seems to have solved by many men. The problem being is that the solutions are not being offered to everybody.

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  48. @Modulo Myself: The modifier “mythic” is a very important one in these conversations.

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  49. JKB says:

    The recent change could be that young men are no longer saying the “right thing” in hopes of getting a girl. Women apparently only like 10% of men so if you aren’t tall, good looking, high salary, many young men are going their own way (if you believe social media).

    I know 30 years ago all the men in the scientific party would be vegetarians if a few of the women were. But once those women were dropped off on their field camps, the cook knew to have extra meat for dinner that night because the orders were going to blow up.

  50. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: I’m trying to understand your objection. Is it that you disagree that the power dynamic between groups such as men and women (among others) has shifted since, say, the invention of easy and effective birth birth control? Or are you objecting to making the leap that this shift in power dynamic has had a negative affect on those whose power was lessened?

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  51. SenyorDave says:

    You have a media empire (Murdoch) that spends a significant amount of time on stories showing that males (especially white males) are an oppressed group. And a large number of people in that group buy into it. Combine that with pushing the concept that some groups (LGBTQ+) are seeking special privileges and you get a pretty unpleasant mix. Also throw in the fact that some people have a problem with consequences of any type for actions.

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  52. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The OP posits, and there is evidence to this point, that many young men (not all men, I would note, despite many very sweeping statements being made in this thread) are becoming more right-wing.

    Ok, that’s helpful, you’re only talking about the subset of men who have become more right wing.

    As a political scientist, I would go a step farther and note that the current right-wing turn in the US, and especially that is being seen with a lot of young men appears to be of a reactionary nature.

    The data Drum presents is about a change in political self-identification, and “conservative” is like “liberal” in that it can mean very different things to different people. Becoming reactionary is only one potential explanation of “conservative” out of many.

    Weaving that reactionary starting point through MAGA and white Christianity to arrive at a generalized conclusion about a loss of power among some number of men you consider to be reactionary is helpful context for where you are coming from.

    I am making a pretty specific claim when I state that the rightward turn in the US, which is more male than female (and empirical fact), is driven by reactionary politics linked to loss of power.

    And that’s the claim I am disputing – especially when it comes to young men. You keep asserting the cause of this rightward shift is reactionary politics driven by a “loss of power.” That is the point I’ve been disputing since the beginning. How do you know that “loss of power” is the primary or sole motivation for men who shifted their identity to be more conservative?

    The other issue is how one defines “reactionary” – reactionary relative to what? Is it compared to the median American viewpoint, the view of progressive activists, or something else? What is the baseline here? In the ongoing culture wars, there are many normie views that are labeled as reactionary by ideological progressives, who punch way above their weight from the commanding heights of the culture.

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  53. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    And that’s the claim I am disputing – especially when it comes to young men. You keep asserting the cause of this rightward shift is reactionary politics driven by a “loss of power.” That is the point I’ve been disputing since the beginning. How do you know that “loss of power” is the primary or sole motivation for men who shifted their identity to be more conservative?

    A couple of additional thoughts building off this (and other points in your comment). First, I see your point about needing definitions or calibration about what is meant by some of these terms.

    Secondly, WRT to the quote above, I have two related thoughts:
    1. I suspect that Steven is using “loss of relative power” in a bit of a catch-all sense. I know I am. By that I mean clusterings a lot of issues from workforce participation, to salary trajectories, to unemployment statists, to more cultural and symbolic forms of power.

    2. While I believe that there is a causation relationship between that loss of relative power and political trends, I also think there can be additional causal and catalytic factors at play that fall outside the catch-all power category. I suspect that Steven would as well.

    Finally thought (for real), I personally have a hard time, based on my training, seeing those other factors as playing as “primary a role as loss of relative power.” So that’s an acknowledged bias on my part that I need to be aware of. So I do my best to remain open to other arguments. I just haven’t seen any well-formulated ones that propose a better explanation to this point (or whose explanation doesn’t ultimately fall under the “loss of relative power” catch-all).

    1
  54. mattbernius says:

    @Andy random question that I probably asked you before. Generally speaking, what’s your profession/field post-military? I know you were a contractor and doing something I seem to think was STEM related. Is it a form of engineering?

    [Ask behind the ask: I was thinking about your points about getting some definitions and calibration in place… and with correlation on my brain, I was just curious about how my understanding of your way of externally unpacking these topics might correlate to your career/vocational training.]

  55. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Let me just weigh in with, “Much ado about nothing.”

    Haysoos f’n crispo, this is a story as old as man. There are about 4 billion (more or less) different ways of being a man. I don’t know a gawd damned thing about Joe Rogan, but I can say unequivocally that Andrew Tate is a pansy mf’er. Could he kick my ass? Sure. So the f’ what? Is that the measure of a man? Or is he man enough to let a gay/trans man and or woman exist in the world as they see fit? I have no idea. If not? He ain’t a man, he’s a pansy asshole.

    Speaking only for myself, I did not get comfortable in my own skin until I was in my mid 30s. I remember sitting on my older sister’s back porch, having a conversation about who knows wtf with her when she ups with, “Oh my Gawd, I have a macho brother!” I said something along the lines of, “Huuuuh?” and when she replied with something similar I said, “Whatever.”

    Yes, I was a union carpenter, but folks? We come in all shapes and sizes, and guess what? There is no one type. And yes, I participated in extreme caving, but I knew women who did just as much. Was I less manly because women did it too? Or were they that much more butch?

    Really, much ado about nothing. Given time, 95% of men will figure it out to one extent or another. Those who don’t? Yeah, they will fuck up a few people. Hopefully they won’t shoot them up.

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  56. Gavin says:

    Unless and until there’s more information, this is special cause variation – and nothing more. Furthermore, one measurement outside control limits is simply not sufficient to determine a new normal. Even on a factory production line… the correct response to this as a metric is exactly nothing.

    Sure, interesting discussion, but this is one measurement and not a trend.

    An example of measurements which reset the long-term mean would be the 4 years prior to 2022 of “men 18-34” having actually been below the long-term lower control limit. Thus, if anything: The data presented shows one outlier after a new long-term trend of young men 18-34 having actually been demonstrated to be less conservative than the start of this dataset.

  57. steve says:

    I really dont understand why young guys would have trouble learning to be a real man. It isn’t that hard to learn to be emotionally distant, watch sports and enjoy beer.

    Steve

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  58. grumpy realist says:

    @Modulo Myself: Speaking as a woman, I don’t have much sympathy for young men’s angst about “being a man.” As the old saying goes–men worry about being laughed at and rejected by women. Women worry about being killed by men.

    Ask every single woman in your family about her experiences. I suspect that every single one of them will have at least one experience of having been sexually attacked. By a male. So we learn to protect ourselves. Either physically, or financially–getting higher education and working to obtain one of the better-paid jobs. We’re told stories of what happens if a stay-at-home mother gets dumped by her Prince Charming when he decides to swap her out for a younger and prettier model. A woman’s divorce typically causes her to move several steps downwards on the financial ladder–her husband’s divorce typically moves him upwards or at least staying the same.

    What young men seem to be complaining about is that young women are now saying “no thank you–I can do better on my own.” Because, based on history….we’re simply being prudent.

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  59. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Ok, here’s my position on this.

    I do not doubt that some number of men are upset because the norms have changed and resulted in a perceived loss of status for them, and they blame women or other groups for that. That is definitely a true thing that happens. I’m skeptical that explains everything.

    Specifically, I’m skeptical that the “loss of power” argument is some kind of grand unified theory that explains the rise of right-wing politics and the dissatisfaction many young men (especially, white, Christian men) have with the state of their lives, especially when it’s framed as loss of power to women and other groups.

    I would like to see some evidence that this causation actually exists and that it is clearly a better explanation than alternative theories for why some men are currently having problems or why some are identifying as conservative.

    The one obvious point is that it doesn’t make sense for young men to resent a loss of power since they are too young and have not had any power. They weren’t alive when men were more dominant. The loss of power argument makes more sense for the older generations, the cranky ones who yell at clouds and watch Fox News. It does not make sense for today’s young men who have grown up in a much more egalitarian society than any previous American generation.

    I also think it’s important to point out that men, especially young men, generally measure their status against other men and not women. A low-status young man resents the high-status man who has income, respect, and the attention of women.

    I suspect that Steven is using “loss of relative power” in a bit of a catch-all sense. I know I am. By that I mean clusterings a lot of issues from workforce participation, to salary trajectories, to unemployment statists, to more cultural and symbolic forms of power.

    Steven can speak for himself, but the way he specified white and Christian men, of “playing on a level playing field,” etc. suggests to me that is not the case.

    And this may also be my wrong interpretation because this argument in non-academic discussions is almost always used to suggest men (especially the white, Christian kind) specifically resent women and other groups. And it’s used as a rhetorical weapon to avoid having to address any real complaints men may have, whether those complaints are legitimate or not.

    What Reeves focuses on in his book and offers explanations, data, and suggested policy changes for are actual problems that men face. It is not a narrative of whiny males complaining because their unfair advantage is gone.

    But I do agree in part with the catch-all sense. For example, as Reeves notes in his book, on average, men today have less relative income as a group than men in 1979. So young men today have less financial power compared to young men of my generation.

    As Reeves details in his book, many things have gotten objectively more difficult for men of younger generations than men of older generations. He’s specifically pointing out those problems and suggesting potential solutions.

    random question that I probably asked you before. Generally speaking, what’s your profession/field post-military? I know you were a contractor and doing something I seem to think was STEM related. Is it a form of engineering?

    I’m technically an independent contractor, but I’ve worked for the same company for several years. My job is varied, but the best way to describe it is a tech analyst primarily focused on cellular, satellite, and other forms of mobile internet connections. I primarily follow the cellular industry and then write explainers for a non-technical audience.

    It’s using roughly the same skillset as an intel analyst, except instead of learning the complexities of air defense systems and explaining to pilots how to defeat them (as one example), I explain cellular and satellite internet technology to normal, non-techy people.

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m trying to understand your objection. Is it that you disagree that the power dynamic between groups such as men and women (among others) has shifted since, say, the invention of easy and effective birth birth control? Or are you objecting to making the leap that this shift in power dynamic has had a negative affect on those whose power was lessened?

    Thanks for the questions.

    I do not disagree at all that the power dynamics between men and women have shifted. Rather I am skeptical of the assertion that young men are turning more conservative because of these changed power dynamics. And I’m especially skeptical that this is the primary or sole cause of young men becoming more conservative, as it’s been presented here.

  60. Andy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Speaking only for myself, I did not get comfortable in my own skin until I was in my mid 30s.

    That was me. I am sooooo glad I didn’t get married until my early 30’s.

  61. Modulo Myself says:

    I also think it’s important to point out that men, especially young men, generally measure their status against other men and not women. A low-status young man resents the high-status man who has income, respect, and the attention of women.

    So these young men aren’t turning conservative, they merely resent the men who happen to be getting the respect of women for no reason other than their ‘status’? You are basically calling them misogynists.

  62. Michael Reynolds says:

    I generally look first to power dynamics to explain much of human interaction. But that’s just one lens. I’d say it’s not jut about power but position and purpose. Definition. Men are lost. They don’t know WTF they are in a world where everyone can be proud of their ‘identity’ except them.

    I’m not asking for pity for men, I’m asking people to recognize danger when they see it. Dr. Taylor is wrong: men are dangerous in a way women cannot match. See every male dominant society throughout history. Men used laws when they had laws, and their fists when they didn’t. Take a good look at just how quickly and easily the Taliban put women back in their box. Look how easily SCOTUS deprived women of control over their own bodies.

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  63. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:
    Thanks for sharing that context and your background. That description of your job makes sense.