New survey shows libertarianism on the rise among Millennials

Millennials are libertarian, according to a new survey.

Harvard University Institute of Politics released its 25th Survey of Young Americans Attitudes toward Politics and Public Service last week, showing that fiscal responsibility and social tolerance were top priorities for young Americans.

Regarding fiscal responsibility, Millennials disapprove of the Obama administration — 47 percent approved of the president’s job performance as of April, an 11 percent drop since November 2009.

A majority also, as noted by the Hill, disapproved of how the president has handled the following eight policy categories: “climate change (51 percent), the economy (61 percent), Iran (59 percent), health care (59 percent), the federal budget deficit (66 percent), Syria (62 percent), student debt (60 percent), and Ukraine (59 percent).”

In addition, none of the six policies listed in the survey — ones that outlined ways to “reduc[e] the gap between the rich and everyone else” — gained traction; in 2013, 58 percent supported reducing food stamps expenditure to 2008 levels.

Regarding social tolerance, 66 percent support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes and 61 percent say that “a friend’s sexual orientation is not important to me.”

More Millennials are identifying as Independents (38 percent) than Republicans (25 percent) or Democrats (37 percent), reflecting “a 5.4 percent growth of the group over the past 14 years.”

Will Millennials turn against both Republicans and Democrats?

National Journal’s Ron Fournier addressed shifting politics among the youth in March, and argued, based on a study by Michelle Diggles, Ph.D, that Millennials could eventually abandon both Republicans and Democrats.

What links fiscal responsibility, social tolerance and party independence together? Pragmatism. Diggles wrote:

Millennials have come of age in a period of increasing availability of information and expansive customization of goods and services. Their experiences have led them to an a la carte worldview, including in politics. They may be voting for Democrats in wider margins than Republicans, but there’s no indication that they have bought the “prix fixe” menu of policy options historically offered by the Democratic Party, nor that brand loyalty to the Party will cement them as Democrats forever. Yet while Republican claims that these voters are winnable in future elections are plausible, they, too, have been asking younger voters to agree to a multi-course tasting menu with limited options. Millennials are pragmatic – they want to know what works and are willing to take ideas from each side. They eschew ideological purity tests of the past. In short, they are winnable by both parties, if only policymakers understood and reflected their values.

Millennials are increasingly recognizing that putting more power into the hands of an already bloated, inefficient government isn’t pragmatic. The same goes for sowing social discord.

Casey Given told Rare that Students for Liberty (SFL), a libertarian group advocating for economic, intellectual and social freedom, has over 100,000 students in its network. Last year, over 3,500 students attended SFL conferences.

Further growth has been realized at Young Americans for Liberty, which has 500 chapters and 162,000 members nationwide, that in its first six years.

A preference for fiscal responsibility and social tolerance could indicate future political trends. Today’s Millennial generation, 18-34 year-olds, will constitute two-thirds of the electorate by 2020.

Matt Naham About the author:
Matt Naham is the Weekend Editor  for Rare. Follow him on Twitter @matt_naham.
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