Thursday, July 17, 2014

A War of Words: 42 percent of Millennials Prefer Socialism


It turns out that the population that lies between the ages of 18-29 are a confusing bunch (I know, I'm one of them). A recent poll conducted by the Reason Foundation and the Rupe Foundation, explored the political opinions of 2400 Millennials. What they found was enlightening, if not occasionally baffling as well. This age group seems to want to have its cake and eat it too.

Roughly speaking, two thirds of the polled claimed to want more government intervention in key areas. They wanted higher minimum wages, some form of public health care, and more taxes on the wealthy. On the other hand, more than 73 percent of the respondents wanted to privatize social security, 64 percent say reducing spending would help the economy, 59 percent say reducing taxes would help the economy, and 57 percent want a smaller government providing fewer services and lower taxes. What? It appears this generation just wants it both ways.

Or do they? It appears to depend on how the questions were phrased. Depending on the subject, this age group tended to support and defend various government actions. However, as soon as taxes are mentioned, they change their tune right quick. Many polls have shown this generation to be in  favor of large government, but perhaps they weren't phrasing the question correctly. When asked, “would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a larger government providing more services?” 54 percent would favor a larger government.

But if they were asked “would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services with low taxes, or a larger government providing more services with high taxes?” suddenly 57 percent would favor smaller government, and 41 percent would favor a larger government. The Millennials would accept more government services, but not if it's going to cost them more. You take what you can get I suppose. When this question is asked along racial lines, there are significant differences. But again, it all falls away once taxes are mentioned:
“At first, Caucasian Millennials are nearly 20 points more likely than non-white Millennials to favor small government. But once taxes are mentioned the race/ethnicity gap disappears among Caucasian, Latino, and Asian Millennials and 6 in 10 prefer small government.”
Also, it seems that this generation defines these political terms differently than previous generations:
...In the Reason-Rupe poll, about 62% of Millennials call themselves liberal. By that, they mean they favor gay marriage and pot legalization, but those views hold little or no implication for their views on government spending. To Millennials, being socially liberal is being liberal, period. For most older Americans, calling yourself a liberal means you want to increase the size, scope, and spending of the government (it may not even mean you support legal pot and marriage equality). Despite the strong liberal tilt among Millennials, 53% say they would support a candidate who was socially liberal and fiscally conservative (are you listening, major parties?).
Perhaps that explains why Ron Paul was so successful with the younger demographic. However, this battle of words doesn't end there. When asked if they would rather liver under socialism or capitalism, 42 percent of the Millennials claimed to prefer socialism as a form of governance. However, it seems that only 16 percent of them could properly articulate the true definition of socialism (usually broadly described as the government ownership of the means of production).

But if they were asked whether they would rather live under a free-market economy or a government managed economy, the numbers reverse in a very big way. 64 percent would rather live in a free-market society. It seems the whole thing is just a matter of semantics. Most Millennials would love to be entrepreneurs in a free-market, but the word “capitalism” has been tainted in their eyes. To them, capitalism is synonymous with corporatism and cronyism, even if its true definition is nothing of the sort.

Overall, this generation is a confusing bunch to me, even though I find myself among them. They have a lot of growing up to do, and lot more to learn (especially with political vocabulary). But overall, I think it is a positive direction. They seem to want smaller government, they are wary of authority, and they seem to enjoy free-markets (linked again for good measure). They favor “meritocracy over egalitarianism” and mainly only want government assistance to help with the poor and disadvantaged. Again, as somebody who distrusts government at absolutely every level, I'll take what I can get.

If there's one undoubtedly positive trend to be seen in this generation though, it's the fact that they are far more politically independent than their parents. The poll found that 38 percent refused to identify with either party, as opposed to only 10 percent of their parents. As long as that trend continues, there may still be hope for a free society in our future.

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