Pew Research's detailed analysis of Millennials is a potent mix of data, and a warning for Republicans. Barack Obama carried a wide majority of the under-30 vote, and this majority swept him to victory in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. Part of this advantage among the youth is due to the ethnic mix; just 58% were white non-Hispanic. But part of it is their values:
- A significant majority thinks government should do more to solve problems
- A plurality think the healthcare law should be expanded
- 68% said illegal immigrants should be given a chance for legal status
- 64% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases
- 66% are in favor of gay marriage
- They are far less religious than any other cohort, with 36% of them attending regular services
I know there is a belief that these kids will become more conservative as they age, but other surveys have shown their preferences have been durable. The real question is - why are they predisposed to liberalism? Generation X is not nearly so liberal, and we were raised singing "Free to Be... You and Me" in the 70s by educators every bit as liberal as the Millenials'. I believe the answer to that question is similar to a question I have been posing to many of my friends lately:
Why do people in big cities tend to be liberal?
The consensus found a few factors that led to liberalism in the big cities:
- City dwellers are more in need of social services than suburban and rural residents. More police, more fire, more toll booths, more libraries, more everything, and a lot of shared infrastructure. City dwellers cannot avoid watching government at work every single day, and are dependent on them, where suburban and rural folks may go several days without seeing a government employee or service.
- Those who live in big cities are much more likely to come into contact with a wide variety of ethnicities, people of every class and socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, and so forth. In less populated areas, there is less variety. When you know and interact with a wide variety of people, you discover issues and challenges unique to them, and faulty stereotypes are harder to maintain. I never knew any gay people until I joined a Seattle company in my early 20s, and I had to unlearn quite a few things pop culture had taught me about homosexuals.
- In a local society, pressure to conform to a world view is often more persuasive than reasoned arguments.
So what does this have to do with Millenials? Because unlike most of Gen X, the Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation, they have lived in a very big city for all of their lives: the Internet.
Millenials are more connected than any other generation, and absolutely understand concepts of "the commons" and shared services. When Twitter or Facebook is down, it's a major event. They connect with people of different faiths, sexual orientation, nationalities, socioeconomic status, education level, and so on. They get more diversity than anyone. And finally, there is immense pressure to conform on the Internet.
The country is becoming a giant, hyper-connected city, and there are new residents every single day. Our challenge is to find ways to apply conservative principles that appeal to city dwellers. Sine qua non.