As controversial a figure as she may be, it turns out that Caitlyn Jenner has helped advance transgender acceptance in older and conservative people.
In a new paper published by American Politics Research, researchers at the University of Kansas revealed that, in a new study, older transphobic individuals were more likely to have a favorable response to the former “I Am Cait” star than younger transphobic individuals.
The findings are based on a survey of 1400 people who followed news of Jenner’s transition in 2015, in which transphobic people were asked if Jenner’s transition was a sign of “negative social trends.” The percentage of responders among the older demographic questioned showed a higher number were “less likely” to say yes than those among the younger.
In addition, the study also found that older transphobic people were more likely to support pro-transgender policies if they viewed Jenner favorably, which is interpreted as an indicator that people with transphobic views were still willing to support pro-trans policies because of exposure to her story.
According to Associate Professor of Political Science Patrick Miller, one of the reasons for the role of the age factor in the study is “probably” that older people were more likely to think of Jenner as an Olympic gold medalist (i.e., as an American hero), while younger people are more likely to recognize her as a reality television star. He also posits that her support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election is another factor that has made older conservatives like her more.
He says, “What’s interesting about the Jenner case is the people who she seemed to influence are the older, more conservative type — those who probably became vested in her back when she was Bruce Jenner competing in the Olympics and appearing on Wheaties boxes.
“She didn’t appear to have any effect on the younger people who might have been more attuned to ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’”
Miller – who co-authored the article with KU’s Don Haider-Markel along with Andrew Flores, Daniel Lewis, Barry Tadlock and Jami Taylor – was using Jenner’s story as a case study in his larger research on how celebrities affect politics in general, an area which he says has been subjected to little academic study.