• Lauren E. Smith University of South Carolina, USA
  • Laura R. Olson Clemson University, USA


Recent headlines suggest that Americans, and American youth in particular, are growing more liberal in their attitudes about social and moral issues. Do these trends suggest that the oft discussed “culture wars” are nearing an end? We examine this possibility by asking whether younger generations of religious and secular Americans do indeed espouse more liberal attitudes about sociomoral issues than their counterparts in older generations. We focus specifically on differences within and across religious groups in attitudes about four issues: abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and the environment. We are especially interested in comparing generational differences in attitudes about high profile, “old-line” wedge issues (abortion and same-sex marriage) in the culture wars with newer, lower profile issues (stem cell research and the environment). Using the 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey, we find that religious youth are generally not more liberal than older religious individuals.

Author Biographies

Lauren E. Smith, University of South Carolina, USA

Lauren E. Smith is a PhD student in political science at the University of South Carolina. Her research examines American politics, political behavior, electoral behavior, and religion and politics. She has published articles in Political Research Quarterly. 

Laura R. Olson, Clemson University, USA

Laura R. Olson is Centennial Professor at Clemson University, where she teaches in the Department of Political Science. She is also editor-in-chief of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Her research, which focuses on contemporary religion, civic engagement, and American politics, has appeared in leading scholarly journals including Political Research Quarterly and Social Science Quarterly. She also is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of nine books. 

Keywords: religion, youth, millennials, abortion, same-sex marriage, environment, stem cell research


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