In the coming years the majority of the workforce and a growing portion of the electorate will be made up of the Millennial generation. Born between 1985-1995 (some say 2000), Millennials are more ethnically diverse and better educated than any previous generation of Americans. Growing up with the Internet, they are also the first generation that can acquire and access information without any authority figure like a teacher or manager.
By 2020, all Millennials will be of voting age, making up 40% of eligible voters. So what does this mean for the future of politics in the United States? A Reason-Rupe poll conducted this year sheds some interesting light on the attitudes and beliefs of this 100 million strong generation. Below are some of what I feel are the most interesting findings.
Based on previous elections, Millennials tend to vote strongly with the Democrats. This has led many to assume they are simply a very liberal generation, leaving it at that. Data from the survey partially supports this, as more Millennials identify as liberal and fewer as conservative than previous generations. Yet how Millennials use these labels is where things get interesting.
According to the poll, of those who identified as liberal, 68% did so for social / tolerance issues, while only 35% did so for economic reasons. When asked to label their political views for social and economic issues, the results were very interesting, as the chart below shows.
It is undeniable that when it comes to social issues, Millennials are overwhelming liberal. Opinions on specific social issues back this up. Nearly 70% of millennials support same-sex marriage, including 54% of Republicans. Nearly 60% support both the legalization of marijuana and online gambling.
Ultimately, however, it seems the majority of millennials vote with a party based primarily on social issues, explaining why such a large number of them vote with the Democrats. When asked if they would support of socially liberal, fiscally conservative candidate, 60% of liberal Millennials said yes. Additionally, roughly a third of Millennials do not support either party to deal with a single of the 15 issues surveyed in the poll. According to a Pew Research poll, a full 50% of Millennials identify as independents. The major parties have some rethinking to do.
The entirety of the report is fascinating and explains in detail the politics of Millennials on a variety of issues. But the one takeaway I found interesting was the one described above. Millennials are socially more liberal than any other generation, but are fiscally moderate. As a Millennial myself, I fit that description. It will be interesting to see the implications of this different viewpoint as politics progresses.