Friday, January 25, 2008

Millennials are Liberal

The nation's youngest adults are the most liberal Americans. The millennial generation (the oldest of whom turn 31 this year) is the only one in which liberals outnumber conservatives. Thirty-four percent of millennials say they are slightly to extremely liberal while a smaller 30 percent say they are slightly to extremely conservative. The remaining 36 percent are moderates.

You might think millennials are liberal only because they are young. Not true. Political viewpoints, in fact, are remarkably stable over a lifetime. Take the baby-boom generation, for example. Today, 25 percent of boomers say they are liberal. Twenty years ago, when boomers were in their twenties and thirties, almost the same proportion (27 percent) identified themselves as liberal. Today, 35 percent of boomers say they are conservative, nearly equal to the 36 percent who called themselves conservative two decades ago. 

The other generations also show remarkable stability in their political viewpoints over time. And each succeeding generation is more liberal than its predecessor. 

Source: General Social Survey


Leo Klein said...

Baby-boomers from 20 years ago? That's an interesting period to check since the Eighties seem like such a period of social retrenchment.

If you really want to measure where the baby-boomers were politically speaking, I'd start with the 70's or even better the 60's.

By the 80's, it seemed like most of them had settled down.

Bruce Miller said...

I'm not familiar with using the GSS page so I couldn't do a quick check.

But do these figures for liberal and conservative rely on general self-identification? Or are they based on some evaluation of their positions on various issues?

I'm thinking that the label "liberal" has been heavily stigmatized for, well, decades, while "conservative" has not had the same kind of stigma attached. Could that be skewing the results?

Also, the polls I've seen have indicated that opposition to the Iraq War in particular was stronger among older cohorts than among younger ones. Has that shifted in the last year or so? Because since "movement" conservatives see that as a key culture-war issue, it seems to me that attitudes toward the Iraq War should be weighted heavily in evaluating who is liberal or conservative.