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Youth: Still Progressive after All These Years?

DR has commented previously on the view that youth are becoming conservative. DR, countering this view, has pointed out the following: (1) the political views of youth (defined here as ages 18-29) on various policy issues–not just social, but also many economic ones–are actually relatively liberal; (2) youth have voted more pro-Democratic than the population as a whole for the last six elections, including the election of 2002; and (3) youth in the post-2002 period appear to be less supportive of Bush and his re-election than the population as a whole (some supporting data may be found here).

Recently released Gallup data are consistent with point (1) about youth’s relatively liberal political views, but raise questions with point (3) about youth’s relative disaffection with Bush. However, recent Pew Research Center data contradict the Gallup data on youth’s views toward Bush and, consistent with earlier data, suggest that youth are, indeed, less supportive of Bush’s re-election than the population as a whole.

Start with youth’s political views. The self-described ideological views of youth in the Gallup data are more liberal on both social and ideological issues. On social issues, youth are more liberal than their elders by 4 points (7 points less conservative) and on economic issues are 12 points more liberal than their elders (13 points less conservative).

Despite these views–according to the Gallup data–youth are 9 points more likely than their elders to approve of Bush’s job performance and registered young voters give Bush a wider lead against a generic Democratic candidate (10 points) than their elders do (4 points).

Somewhat puzzling, if true, especially in light of earlier age breaks DR has seen on this question, which have generally shown youth exceptionally likely not to support Bush. Further questions on the Gallup results here are raised by poll results reported in the Pew study cited above. According to the study, Pew polls in September and October of this year–very close in time to the Gallup poll under discussion–found youth supporting an unnamed Democrat by 20 points, while their elders supported Bush by 4 points.

Youth: still progressive after all these years? Maybe so.


I work with people who are on the average twenty years younger than I. (About to change, layoff notice just came). But with one or two exceptions, who are REALLY Republican (there's one wealthy young woman who says that Donald Rumsfeld "turns her on" - I kid you not!) I see a lot of liberalism in these people, mainly on social issues, but increasingly, I think, on economic ones. Sure, a few years ago they all thought they were soon going to become internet millionaires, but there's been enough cold water thrown on that so that it's beginning to sink in.

Granted these are a hip, urban demographic, but as I've watched them over the past five years, this is the direction they're moving in. There was obviously a change on 9/11/2001, but that's receding too. As for the whole country, I couldn't say.

As a youth, I can say that while many are socially liberal, many are economically conservative. Many of my peers are primarily conerned with their own pocketbooks.
While they seem to support social programs, they pull back when they are forced to take some of the tax burden it order to pay for those programs. It seem to be that many of them want to have their cake and eat it too. While the Dean campaign and other movements have stirred up an idea of youth involvement in politics and social liberalism, this effect is somewhat limited and on the part of many may only be lip serivce. The youth of today want all the great parts of a social government, but they don't want to have to bear the burden.

I think that Gallup poll has to be bunk.

If Donald Rumsfeld was 40 years younger, I'd do him. I think that when it comes to my generation, homosexuality will be a non-issue.

I believe this move towards Young Republicanism and right-wing conservative ideaology begins to tail off when any one of the following 3 occur:

The kid graduates and tries to get a good job

The kid gets laid off from his job

The kid leaves home and begins to live in the real world.

The kid gets married and has a family.