June 27, 2007
The Kids Are Alright
According to a new New York Times/CBS poll, they're not only alright, they're downright Democratic. They disapprove of Bush's handling on, well, everything, would vote Democratic by a margin of 54%-32%, and 58% have a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party while only 38% are positively inclined towards the Republicans. The one surprising result is their pessimism: 48% think their generation will be worse off than their parents' generation, while only 25% think they'll be better off.
Whether for that or another reason, they seem to have more trust in government than their parent's do:
So kids, it turns out, are much better than alright: They're collectivists! My hunch is coming of political age after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Reagan era will leave you much less skeptical of government than having endured through the period when "big government" meant a murderous and hegemonic regime we were in an undeclared war with, and the nation's dominant political party demonized the state in exactly those terms. As Ruy Teixeira and John Judis explain in the latest issue of TAP:
The Democratic majority in 2006 was also bolstered by support from voters ages 18 to 29. Almost all of these voters fall into the category that pollsters call "millennials" or "Generation Y" (those born after 1977). In contrast to the previous generation, dubbed "Generation X" (those born between 1965 and 1977), they prefer Democrats over Republicans and the center-left over the center-right. According to a 2006 Pew survey, 48 percent of 18- to 25-year-old millennials identify themselves as Democrats, and only 35 percent identify themselves as Republicans. In 2006, 18- to-29-year-olds voted for Democratic congressional candidates by 60 percent to 38 percent. By contrast, 55 percent of 18- to 25-year-old Generation Xers had identified themselves as Republicans in the early 1990s. Political generations don't often change their allegiance. The New Deal generation sustained a Democratic majority for decades; Generation X has remained a bulwark of the Republican vote; and the millennials can be expected to bolster a new Democratic majority.
Clearly, different political experiences have shaped these two generations. Generation X grew up during the Carter and Reagan years, which were marked by Democratic failure and Republican success. The millennials grew up in years of the Clinton boom and Bush's disastrous failure in Iraq. Their political outlook most clearly resembles that of postindustrial professionals: socially liberal, in favor of government regulation of business, more secular, and less inclined than any other generation to accept the Republican identification with the religious right. In a 2006 Pew survey, 20 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds reported they had no religion or were atheist or agnostic, compared with just 11 percent among those over 25.
If these trends endure -- and unlike other shifts in the past few years, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Democrats have achieved lock-in with millenials -- the Left is going to have a much stronger base from which to build over the next few years.
I lived through the 1970's and 1980's as a politically-aware adult. I don't know that Reagan's anticommunism had much political potency. I do think the very success of the New Deal (as extended by WWII) in creating a society, which empowered an expansive, suburban middle class, undermined "faith in government".
A whole generation grew up, who had no experience of how badly things can go wrong. The American economy of the 1920's, which had left vast swaths of the South, and West and even the rural Midwest, off the electrical grid and out of the industrial prosperity of the Great Lakes and Northeast, was completely forgotten. The vast array of Progressive and New Deal institutions from the SEC and bank deposit insurance to the FDA and Agriculture Department to the UAW and AFL-CIO, which had successfully managed and regulated markets faded out of immediate consciousness. So, a Friedman could come along and argue that none of those institutions were necessary to the functioning of the web of now-trusted business and markets.
The New Deal institutions had tamed the plutocracy and Big Business, and made them trustworthy. And, a generation grew up trusting them. And, the institutions, themselves seemed archaic, their purposes and necessity forgotten.
The dismantling of New Deal institutions offered considerable profit opportunities for Big Business, and so a political movement organized around dismantling them, with little opposition from a somnolent public.
None of this had much to do with fear of Communism.
People are awakening to the dangers of an untrustworthy business community and an untrustworthy Republican Party.
What we don't have, is a vision of a way forward, economically. Most people correctly perceive the decline of the country is underway, and outside of the West Coast, and Northeast -- blue America -- there is no obvious economic opportunity pulling the country forward.
Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Jun 27, 2007 12:25:08 PM
I'm a GenXer and I certainly don't remember any great successes in my family's life during the Reagan era! I contribute the GenXer ties to the GOP to be the result of brainwashing. It seems in my lifetime the GOP has really ramped up the ideologue quotient with talk radio. A policy that was fostered by the media and cultural push towards blind consumerism and materialism.
Posted by: Eddie | Jun 27, 2007 12:47:41 PM
It looks like the kids all left.
Posted by: AJ | Jun 27, 2007 1:24:35 PM
Cool double post, Ezra.
Posted by: Dilan Esper | Jun 27, 2007 8:20:58 PM
Anyone else find disturbing the fact that young voters are less pro-choice than the electorate at large?
Posted by: mealworm | Jun 28, 2007 9:52:29 AM
Posted by: judy | Oct 8, 2007 8:26:50 AM
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