With an election approaching in November, what do the 18 to 29 year olds of America— Millennials —think? How will they vote in the upcoming election? Remember, all but the oldest Millennials have only seen, during their adulthood, Barak Obama as President. And the youth vote was key for the President in both of his elections in 2008 and 2012.
It turns out, according to the new Reason Magazine-Rupe survey and report, that even though they are more in favor of government action than older Americans, their appetite for government intervention and their view of government’s efficiency and ability to solve problems have moderated and is becoming closer to the views of older Americans.
The Reason magazine poll was conducted in February and March of this year. Conducted by YouGov, researchers interviewed 2,362 likely voters between the ages of 18 and 29. They found that the desired to have government do more peaked in 2011 and is steadily declining.
Today’s Millennials are conflicted, to say the least, about the role of government in their lives. Sure, they still want government to do more to solve problems in the country, but they view government as “wasteful, inefficient, corrupt and susceptible to crony capitalism”. I believe the worldview of Millennials is one of pessimism, colored by their own inability to see that the political (and, perhaps, other) decisions they have made have severely restricted their options in life. Although Millennials need to have government do more is declining, it is substantial and is more of a hedge for what they see as less and less prosperity in their future. A generation that is willing to entrust their lives to a government they view as abusive, corrupt and inefficient is not an optimistic generation.
Millennials from a political candidate’s perspective
The key finding for me has to do with political candidates, a sort of a practical guide of the beliefs of Millennials. For political candidates, Reason draws the conclusion that “a socially liberal, fiscally conservative candidate could succeed with Millennials.”
“Sixty-two percent of respondents identified as socially liberal in the poll and 49% say they are fiscally liberal (slightly more are fiscally moderate or conservative). Fifty-three percent say they would support a candidate who was both socially liberal and fiscally conservative. In fact, the report argues that social issues, more than economics, tend to “define their political labels and shape their political judgments.”
I agree with this finding.
Here is a suggestion. Have a talk with Millennials about anything. Center the discussion on social issues and you will talk all day. You will know how Brad or Angelina feels about it or what Kim Kardasian is doing. They can discuss the history of Hip Hop or Rap all day and know who is winning on American Idol. But change the topic to the Federal budget or the cost benefit of social programs and you will hear a pin drop. The truth is Millennials are growing up and just now find themselves mystified that they have to pay back those student loans or that the degree they got in Women’s or Ethnic Studies does not get you a good paying job.
Let’s get deeper into the results concerning Millennials and politics
The other top findings from the survey according to Reason are as follows, with most confirming the slide to more conservative views by this generation. My comments follow reason’s findings (italicized) at the end of each section.
“Millennial’s overwhelmingly support Democratic Presidential candidates, with Hilary as their top choice; thirty-four percent classify themselves as “independents”. Forty-three percent self-identify as Democrats and 22% are Republican. Twenty-eight percent trust “neither” party to handle any of the issues discussed in the poll, while 50% trusted neither party to handle privacy.”
Reason called Millennials the “unclaimed generation”. I think of Millennials as the uninformed generation.
What Millennials think about government
Surprisingly (to me anyway) “the generation prefers small government, if large government requires high taxes. The survey found that if taxes were not explicit, 54% of Millennials favored government providing more services; once tax rates were mentioned, the results flipped with 57% favoring “smaller government providing fewer services, with lower taxes once tax rates were mentioned.” I am, frankly, shocked and pleasantly speechless on this finding.
“Millennials are “suspicious” of government power; 58% of respondents worry that government agencies abuse their power, 63% say government regulators favor special interest over the public and 66% say government is usually inefficient and wasteful.”
Remember, these respondents have grown into adulthood watching the NSA spy on Americans, lie about ObamaCare and watched its disastrous implementation (with more than $1 Billion spent on its website) and heard promises that proved untrue. Millennials watch the Veteran’s Administration scandal nightly and watch as 52,000 children scurry across the Rio Grande, apparently without any interference from a Federal government that is supposedly capable of stopping terrorists from entering the country.
Millennials see Solyndra given $500 million (and more than 20 other green companies given billions more that simply disappeared), watch as General Electric pays no taxes due to “green” incentives and subsidies and have watch the debt climb to $18 TRILLION on “shovel ready jobs” that ended up not being shovel ready anything. Is there any wonder why Millennials are jaded?
What Millennials think government should do
“Millennials still want government to care for the disadvantaged. Fifty-eight per cent think government should spend more on financial assistance to the poor, even if higher taxes are required and 7 of 10 favor government guarantees for housing, food, and health insurance. 54% favor guarantees for college to the least advantaged. However, their support for social spending steadily declines as their incomes rise.”
Oh, you mean as Millennials get more responsible, as they pay more in taxes, own more stuff like a car or maybe a house, have a family they support and see their tax money squandered? Then their support for social spending declines? How strange. Is this a new phenomenon?
Millennials have watched the housing/mortgage market collapse under Bush following a decades-long manipulation of the housing and mortgage markets. They have watched Obama daily turn the economy into a part time employment world with the lowest labor participation rate in our history (62%, with half of all working age adults either not working or working low wage, part time jobs). No wonder Millennials are hedging their bets in a world in which they don’t see much opportunity.
Millennials and the economy
“Millennials are totally confused when it comes to actions to stimulate the economy; they support policies to expand government and to limit it. Two-thirds support raising taxes on the wealthy and reducing government by 5%. Six in 10 are in favor of spending more on government job training programs and on infrastructure, as well as cutting taxes. The bottom line is they believe someone should do something to improve the economy, but care less about who or how.”
Notice that Millennials don’t think THEY should do something to improve THEIR economy. Remember being in your teens when your parents and other relatives told you must go to college and improve your life? Now we have a generation that wants legislation, government, to provide “a living wage,” higher minimum wages, subsidized everything.
Millennials have no idea there are already dozens of Federal, State, and local job training programs; nor have they seen any positive effects from those training programs. They watch a news report on a government job training program and realize most reports will tell you how many people the program has “helped” by enrolling in their program; never do they discuss how many participants (graduates) have gotten jobs from the programs. And those few that have gotten jobs are “peer counselors” for the program they just graduated from. Government job training programs are simply fertile grounds for creating more government workers…and the circle grows. And they know it is just a game.
“Millennials strongly prefer free markets over a government economy by 64% to 32% in the survey.” Interestingly, when the survey used the terms capitalism and socialism, the results showed that 52% favored capitalism to 42% for socialism, and follow-up questions resulted in the surveyors doubting the respondents knew what the term “socialism” meant.”
California’s education system is 47th in the country. We are lucky they know what “cat” and “dog” mean. I have a friend who owns several small businesses in East County. His rule is he will not hire high school graduates who misspell the name of their school and city: Antioch.
We are in the age of the low information voter or the person who thinks watching “The Daily Show” is watching the news. But, Reason points out, these views are moderating. Hopefully, this moderation will accelerate in the near future.
“Millenials don’t want to be “nannied.” For example, 57% favor legalizing marijuana and on-line gaming, 72% think selling sugary drinks in restaurants should be okay, and 67% think same-sex marriage should be allowed (54% of Republicans in the survey support legalizing same-sex marriage).
Last year I worked a table for the Republican Party at a Hispanic Youth education conference for high school juniors and seniors. At first, few kids stopped to talk with us. Then we started giving kids and teachers a short quiz that tests if you are a liberal or a conservative. We also had a flyer on the NSA spying on Americans (reading their text messages). We asked many young people as they walked by if they liked doing what their parents told them to do and how to live their lives; if not, did they want the government telling them how to live.
We were swamped. We had great discussions and a wonderful day. Maybe there is hope.
“Fifty-five percent of Millennials said they would like to start their own business and 61% said working hard is the key to success. Seventy per cent of respondents were in favor of competition and 64% looked favorably at the profit motive.”
Amazing considering that, for example, the unemployment rate of 16 to 19 year old Hispanic and Black youth is 38%. Few, unfortunately, have experience in a work environment before coming of age as a Millennial. I am not sure what they think owning a business means.
“In light of today’s debate on “income inequality”, 57% said they would prefer to live in a society where wealth is distributed according to individual achievement rather than a society where the income gap is small.”
Again, I am speechless when considering what I read in the news media.
“The millennial generation is the most racially diverse generation in history. Fifty-six% are white, compared to 73% of baby boomers; they are twice as likely to be Hispanic than older Americans (19% vs. 10%) and more likely to identify as African-American (15% vs. 11%)and Asian (6% vs. 4%).”
True and in the long run, probably good. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing and being in a variety of cultures. But diversity for diversity’s sake is not necessarily good. But, for now, let’s just say it’s great.
What’s next for Millennials?
What we are seeing here are the confused beliefs of the generation that grew up on high self-esteem, soccer games without scores, and foot high trophies for showing up, not winning; many then morphed into entitlements and “financial aid” while being educated by the 1960s and 1970s anti-authority generation. As a result, Millennials are now pessimistic, unemployed (or underemployed) and trapped by their senseless $1 Trillion in student loans with degrees in low-paying occupations or stuck in jobs saying “would you like fries with that order, sir.”
Millennials see the Veteran’s Administration’s budget triple since 2005 and reward its bureaucrats with bonuses while it falsifies appointment schedules. They watch the ObamaCare website crash repeatedly for months (and several State websites crash permanently), with many of the programs components postponed indefinitely by Executive actions and orders from the President that threatens that he “has a pen and a telephone”. They watch the nightly news and realize the Federal government can’t or won’t stop children-never mind terrorists- crossing the border. They hear reports of $18 Trillion deficits and don’t like the future they have been voting for.
Clearly, Millennials are confused and up for grabs by both political parties.
Millennials will remain socially liberal but become more fiscally conservative as “large government” continues to handsomely reward itself with extravagant pay and pensions while it’s programs fail on every front and the cost to support “socially liberal” policies grow to be an ever more disrupting influence on their lives. Millennials are not monolith demographic block, but it is incumbent on the conservative movement to develop and articulate a vision that can reach and convince Millennials of its “small government” viability and increased prosperity for Millennials in the coming years.
It is critical that small government advocates win this philosophical and political war soon and accelerate the “moderation” process of Millennials before we allow big government to lay waste our social vitality, economy, and lives.