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I was browsing around the Brookings site, looking for papers that I might find interesting, and I stumbled across an article by Peter W. Singer which analyzed survey results from 1,000+ “Millennials” who are deemed to be interested in future governance. I put Millennials in quotes because I’m often confused by generational markers, but Singer seems to define “Millennial” as “born between 1980 and 2005”. That’s a pretty large time span, but I’ll accept it. Anyway, I was interested in learning what how well my views coincided with the things Millennials found important. There isn’t anything too earth-shattering in the paper if you have a general idea of polling of young voters, but here the statistics.

  • Most of the survey participants identified as Democrats (38%), followed by Independents (29%). I draw the conclusion from later data that Independents in this group largely identified as left-liberal. These two groups together, assuming I’m correct, swamped Republican identification, which stood at 26%.
  • Most of the participants cited news organization websites as their highest priority news sources, with cable news following behind. Blogs and comedy shows like The Daily Show were low. Surprisingly, most cited parental influence on their political views, with other popular leaders (political, faith, celebrities) having a very low share.
  • Not surprisingly, schoolbooks are defining the historical narrative, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt being their ideal leader from history, followed by Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Barack Obama personifies “leadership needed” in the 21st century.
  • Unfortunately, in my view, these participants view China as a “problem country” in the future, and few view China as an ally. I think this is driven by popular discourse, which I view as wrong and wrong-headed…and now actively damaging.
  • Very good news, however, is that a majority (57.6%) think the US is “too involved in global affairs”. Also on the positive side, among the least important “challenges for the future” is immigration. I’m very interested in changing the discourse and the tide surrounding immigration in the future. It is the cheapest, easiest, and fastest way in which we can raise the poor out of poverty, and greatly increase the welfare of everyone in the world.
  • On the down side, terrorism is a large priority for the participants (31.6% saying its the top). Not surprisingly, Republicans dominate the group who thinks this (at 52%), and 84% of participants think terrorism will always be a threat. No disrespect to those who have lost their lives due to terrorism, but I barely see terrorism as a “threat” at all. Indeed, I, and the majority of people in the developed world have never experienced terrorism as a “threat”, existential or otherwise. There may be incidences of terrorism in the future, and they may involve a high-profile loss of life…but I don’t think that policy should be in any way dominated by the existence of such rare possibilities.

On the whole, as should be no surprise to people who follow demographic trends, younger people seem to be more left-liberal on issues. This survey didn’t really deal with domestic social policy, and didn’t deal with economic policy at all…but I think that by and large that identification has a lot to do with social issues like gay rights, abortions, etc. I am optimistic that our young leaders will be more “libraltarian”, which is definitely a good thing in my mind. No, there will of course not be a libertarian revolution, and policy probably won’t get outwardly “better” (i.e. we’ll probably have to deal with the income tax, and onerous licensing and regulation), but I think that on some important margins, the future looks bright.

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