Over five years of activism in and around the Republican Party, I have frequently heard (and occasionally made) calls to appeal to young voters. Such exhortations typically include a claim to know what young voters want. They want government out of their personal lives. They want a more tolerant and inclusive society. And they want government to balance its checkbook. But the full picture proves a bit more convoluted, as The Atlantic reports:
Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They’re for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they’ve heard of. They’d like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn’t run anything.
That’s all from a new Reason Foundation poll surveying 2,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Millennials’ political views are, at best, in a stage of constant metamorphosis and, at worst, “totally incoherent,” as Dylan Matthews puts it.
Author Derek Thompson ably demonstrates how the results could be construed by partisans to signal millennial support for either political party’s agenda. That in spite of a similar Pew poll indicating that millennials don’t care much for either party. In short, the Reason Foundation poll offers little to nothing of any practical substance regarding a millennial platform for public policy.
This really shouldn’t surprise us. Kids want everything, right now and for free, until they learn the value of a dollar through practical experience. The Reason Foundation poll found that millennials who meet with financial success tend to rethink that whole wealth redistribution thing.
Maybe the takeaway for politicos chomping at the bit to win the youth vote is to stop trying to figure them out. Instead, lead with principle and demonstrate how it serves their interests.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 10:52 minutes long; 10.49 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)