The Dangerous Gender Gap on Collegiate Campuses Today


Politically, men and women are growing farther apart and data is regularly confirming this story. Gen Z men have become more conservative over time, while Gen Z women have become more liberal. Young women are now more likely to vote, care about political issues, and participate in social movements and protests compared to young men.

There is no better place to see these changes today on college campuses which have long been home to numerous protests and social movements. In recent years, demonstrations on issues of Black Lives Matter, abortion, and gun control have dominated campus culture. Most recently, the Israel-Gaza war and anti-Semitism are impacting collegiate campuses nationwide and, in the post-October 7 era, it appears that young women are at the forefront of campus protests. While this political activism fits into the larger narrative of women’s ascent and dominance on campuses, as men fall into the background, there is a problem that is not being discussed: many of these politically engaged women are also far less open to controversial speech and disagreement; numerous Gen Z women support cancel culture at notably higher rates than their male counterparts.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s (FIRE) 2024 free expression data which captures over fifty-five thousand voices from 254 colleges and universities powerfully illustrates these critically important gender-based differences that are now pronounced on our campuses today. Ideological differences, for instance, are noteworthy. Almost 55 percent of female students identify as liberal, while only 13 percent identify as moderate and 15 percent identify as conservative. Almost 40 percent of men, however, identify as liberal, 16 percent identify as moderate, and 25 percent identify as conservative.

At the top 25 schools, per US News, 71 percent of women and 54 percent of men identify as liberal, while only 8 percent of women and 18 percent of men identify as conservative. Outside of elite schools, at colleges and universities ranked lower than 200, about 45 percent of women and a third of men identify as liberal, while 18 percent of women and 27 percent of men identify as conservative. Elite colleges dominate social discourse but are fortunately not representative of the American public.

Turning to speech and limiting discourse, at first glance, men and women appear to agree on stifling speech on campus. About 29 percent of men and a third (33 percent) of women believe that it is “always” or “sometimes acceptable” to shout down a speaker from speaking on campus. However, at elite schools, about 41 percent of women find at least some cases where shouting down a speaker is acceptable, compared to a notably lower 32 percent of men.

At lower-ranked institutions, about 26 percent of men and 29 percent of women believe shouting down a speaker is “sometimes” or “always” acceptable. Most students at these schools are far more interested in hearing speakers speak and gender differences are minor. Once again, elite schools have an outsized voice in the political climate on campus.

Read the rest of this piece at Real Clear Education.

Samuel J. Abrams is a profesor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Photo: Javier Trueba, via Unsplash.