Millennials Prefer Small Government If Large Government Requires High Taxes

Reason-Rupe has a new survey and report out on millennials—find the report here.

At first glance millennials appear to prefer a “larger government providing more services” (54%) over a “smaller government providing few services” (43%). However, once tax rates are mentioned support for large government flips. Instead 57 percent favor “smaller government, providing fewer services, with low taxes” and 41 percent want “larger government providing more services, with high taxes.” We also find that the race/ethnicity gap on the size of government disappears among Hispanic, Asian, and white millennials once tax rates are explicit.

Other surveys have asked the first version of this question, in which taxes are not mentioned, finding millennials are the only generation to support large government. In stark contrast, Americans nationally favor smaller government with fewer services over larger government providing more services (35%).

Typically, “big government” has implied high taxes, heavy regulation, and the power to play favorites and control individuals. However, debate about the role of government was put on hold in the aftermath of 9/11, when millennials came of a politically impressionable age. Furthermore, the national enemy was no longer a large totalitarian regime like the Soviet Union, but terrorist groups from whose attacks our government sought to protect us.

This raises the question: Do millennials know what the phrase “big government” means? Recent evidence suggests they may not.  If millennials don’t know what large government is, do they know what it costs?  If not, perhaps their preference for “more services” over “fewer services” drives their desire for “larger government.”

To investigate this, Reason-Rupe divided the sample in half and asked one half:

“If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a larger government providing more services?”

It then asked the other half of the sample the same question but with explicit tax rates:

“If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services with low taxes, or a larger government providing more services with high taxes?”

When taxes are mentioned, millennials’ preference for large government flips, and a majority (57%)— favor small government and 41 percent favor large government.

Our results indicate that millennials don’t immediately make the connection between larger government and the high taxes it requires. Consequently, support for “larger government providing more services” among millennials doesn’t necessarily imply an endorsement for a large activist government that levies heavy taxes. Instead, many are favoring “more services” rather than more services plus high taxes. Perhaps older Americans would also favor more over less government services if they felt it wouldn’t cost them.

Are Non-white Millennials More Likely To Support Large Government?

Congruent with findings from the Pew Research Center, white millennials (50%) are considerably more likely to favor smaller government when taxes are not mentioned than African-American (32%), Latino (36%), and Asian American (29%) millennials. Consequently, at first glance, non-white millennials are far more likely to favor larger government.

However, after considering taxes, the racial gap on the preferred size of government starts to disappear. The share of Latino, Asian, and white millennials preferring small government is statistically identical, with roughly six in 10 in support. African-American millennials are divided, with a slim majority favoring larger over smaller government, even if that means higher taxes (53 to 46 percent). It appears that white millennials are more likely to implicitly associate large government with high taxes.

Available data suggest that Latino and Asian millennials, many of whom are themselves immigrants or children of recent immigrants, will likely experience a good deal of upward income mobility. For instance, the Pew Research Center reports that the median annual household income for first generation Hispanics is $34,600, and this increases to $48,400 among the second generation. Since higher incomes often diminish support for government services, our results indicate that desire for activist government may decline over the next decade if large government and high taxes are explicitly connected in voters’ minds.

Millennials Respond More Favorably to Concrete Proposals to Limit Government Than Abstract References About Government’s Size

If the abstract notion of government’s “size” does not convey the same substantive meaning for millennials that it has for previous generations, perhaps more concrete policy proposals would garner greater support than calls to “reduce the size of government.”

To test this, the survey presented millennials with several policy proposals aimed at reducing the scope of government, including cutting government spending by five percent, cutting taxes, and reducing the number of regulations. They were asked if each proposal would primarily hurt or primarily help the economy. The survey then compared responses for these concrete proposals to responses for whether the relatively abstract act of “reducing the size of government” would primarily help or harm the economy.

Concrete policies that effectually reduce government’s scope receive greater support than the proposal to reduce government’s size. Cutting government spending receives the greatest support, with 65 percent saying it would “primarily help” rather than harm the economy, followed by cutting taxes (58%), reducing the number of regulations (55%), and reducing government’s size (53%). Intensity of support also reflects this pattern, with a quarter of millennials saying that cutting government spending would help “a lot,” compared to 14 percent who have a similar favorable intensity for shrinking government.

In sum, cutting spending and taxes garners more support than reducing government’s size. Offering explicit methods for how to reduce the power and scope of government may better resonate among millennials than just asserting the need to rein in “big government.”

To learn more about millennials, check out Reason-Rupe's new report.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Libertymike||

    Is Reason going to post a thousand articles regarding millenials? Please don't make me ask a thousand times.

  • Ted S.||

    Didn't you post this one already? Although, I'll admit to not having thoroughtly read all 438574250748659853276085376098743607498325742079 posts on the latest Reason-Rupe poll.

  • ||

    Posts about being annoyed over the monthly rupe poll article dumps are far more annoying then the actual article dumps.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This just in: Millennials are generally idiots.

  • ||

    Yes...

    But they seem to have gotten smarter since the last rupe-poll article dump.

    Like the ad-bots they are gaining self awareness.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeap. Tell me what they think after they grow up.

  • Cytotoxic||

    They'll die first.

  • JW||

    "Like, whoa, dude. All this stuff costs money?"

  • It's a wagon wheel!||

    And how would they answer if you asked about taxing them vs taxing other people?

    Because they read that question as "high taxes on ME". Split it up, and I bet it changes again.

  • MegaloMonocle||

    Anyone who needs to be told that big government means high taxes is far too stupid for their opinions on anything to have any interest to me.

  • gimmeasammich||

    Except that these people can vote.

  • Obama's Buttplug||

    Anyone here catch Lou Reed's current concert tour? I hear it's pretty great.

  • MJGreen||

    WE ALREADY DID THIS ONE! OR AM I GOING CRAAAAZY??

  • It's a wagon wheel!||

    +1 slow news day

  • Delroy||

    Today we examine the phenomenon of deja vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we've lived through something before, that what is happening now has already happened. Today we examine the phenomenon of deja vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've ...

  • Dr. Fronkensteen||

    Deja Moo, The feeling you've experienced this bullshit before.

  • Ken Shultz||

    All the Reason staff are in Vegas.

    It's like the interns have taken over.

    OMG This is the future of Hit & Run!

  • See Double You||

    The more they have to pay, the less they want to play.

  • See Double You||

    BREAKING NEWS: MILLENNIALS LIKE OTHER GENERATIONS, LOVE FREE SHIT

    / NYT/WaPo/WSJ headlines

  • ||

    Our results indicate that millennials don’t immediately make the connection between larger government and the high taxes it requires.

    I blame Krugman, Obama and Keynsianism for this.

    The pervasiveness of left leaning public figures claiming you can get more stuff without paying for it has reached its peak over the past 4 to 5 years.

  • 21044||

    What exactly is the definition of a "millennial." Wiki is not all that much help, "Researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials

    Using the later date and assuming early 2000s runs through 2004, polling a 10 year old's opinion on anything except the favorite food really does not mean much.

  • ||

    The answer is: "Pokemon"

  • SQRLSY One||

    The answer is FREE SHIT from unicorns over the rainbow, and from a Government Almighty tooooOOOooooooOOOO!!!!! That LOVES us adoringly, by the way...

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I believe the usual cutoff is 9/11, much like the Kennedy Assassination is used as the cutoff between the Boomers and Gen X.

  • 21044||

    thanks

  • Sigivald||

    As usual.

    Remind people that that shit ain't free, and they're suddenly less in favor of it.

  • Sevo||

    Millenials are just like most voters! They lie about being smart! They vote for the free shit party! They think there is free shit!
    Have I covered it all?

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    " In stark contrast, Americans nationally favor smaller government with fewer services over larger government providing more services (35%)."

    The previous 8 decades of government activity begs to differ. We have the government the electorate has chosen, and it's huge and wasteful.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "At first glance millennials appear to prefer a “larger government providing more services” (54%) over a “smaller government providing few services” (43%). However, once tax rates are mentioned support for large government flips."

    Millennials prefer larger government if larger government comes with a cookie.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    Reason in general, and Gillespie in particular, seem to place a lot of hope in "millenials". It's hard to blame them, as this is the near future of the American populace, and optimism about the future is a nice thing to have. I just don't know how much is to be taken from these polls. My quote above regarding how Americans nationally favor smaller government illustrates my point. Our history shows the opposite is true, unless the comparison is between Soviet era communism vs American social democracy, Americans seem to strongly favor big government, as it has continually grown larger.

    The other option is there are a very large number of Americans who want a smaller government but they don't vote. This seems doubtful.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Fucked we are, yes, hmmmm.

  • Paul.||

    Do or do not, do not try.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Feel the Farce flowing through you.

  • ||

    I don't know about hope.

    The left want to claim they own Gen Y.

    Throwing a monkey wrench into that claim is not "hope".

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    My 24 year old son watches Colbert and Stewart pretty much every day. However, when I talk to him about the topics, he leans very libertarian. I don't understand it, but I'm glad he doesn't believe most of what he sees on those shows.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Colbert and Stewart are funny!

    Haven't you ever looked past someone's idiotic politics to enjoy a good zombie movie or somethin'?

  • jmomls||

    You know who else was funny? Lord Haw Haw and Tokyo Rose.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Stewart and Colbert=traitors.

    Derp.

  • ||

    Stewart and Colbert=traitors.

    Derp.

    Stewart's book "America" is pretty close to unhinged social nationalism.

    Can an American fascist for greater American nationalism be a traitor to America?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I don't think people I disagree with, even strongly, are necessarily traitors, no.

  • ||

    Joyce was born in Brooklyn...how can American be a traitor to Britain?

    The broadcasts of Iva Toguri D'Aquino were found to be innocuous by the DOJ and she was only convicted because a witness lied....most likely framed and a victim of anti-Japanese sentiment at the time.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    Many times. I generally don't care about the politics of entertainers. Stewart and Colbert are a bit different in that the entire show is about their politics. There's no chance to put politics aside as that is 90% of the program.

  • MegaloMonocle||

    I just don't know how much is to be taken from these polls.

    My takeaway is that Millenials are just as short-sighted and unprincipled as, well, the Boomers and Gen X.

    Thus, the trajectory toward mo bigga government will be unchanged.

  • Ayatollah Savaranola||

    88% of millenials want larger government in smaller portions. 12% of millenials want the opposite.

  • lap83||

    I laughed

  • Paul.||

    under Sotivet-style legalization, Pot stores run short as tight supply can’t meet the demand

    Headscratching ensues.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Here at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, I asked a couple of idiot Millenials sitting next to me what they think should be done; they're not sure what the solution is, but they don't think libertarians should blame Obama--because we're a bunch of racists.

  • GILMORE||

    We still lack any insight on Millenial attitudes toward ferret ownership

  • ||

    If they can place bee hives on the roofs of a buildings in a city with the highest population density in the US then they should be OK with ferret farms in apartments.

  • Stickler Meeseeks||

    All these millenial articles make a guy kinda long for a GoT post.

  • Ayatollah Savaranola||

    98% of millenials think Incompetence is a racial classification.

  • toolkien||

    Which generation didn't want pie for everyone without a tab? This isn't new. I just think they, more than prior generations, will fall for the smoke and mirrors that government provides.

  • Tony||

    Concrete policies that effectually reduce government’s scope receive greater support than the proposal to reduce government’s size.

    Yeah, especially since you didn't give anyone the option of not supporting these concrete proposals. These polls are laughably manipulative.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Go fuck a duck, Tony.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Wow, a lot of dislike of us younger people here. Are there that many envious past-their-primers on Hit and Run?

  • jmomls||

    Dislike and envy are not the same things.

    You'd think someone who has such a lofty opinion of themselves would know that, Esquire.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Not the same, but the former often springs from the latter.

  • It's a wagon wheel!||

    So you're saying you can't tell the difference.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Believe me, it's not envy.

    There are a few things that bug me about millenials, and one of them is that they're...like...scene killers.

    Used to be you'd have a new scene sprout up. A happenin' place, and everything would be great. And then a scene killer would show up.

    They're not there to be part of the scene--they're just there to spectate. And they bring their friends! And their friends bring friends. And pretty soon?

    There's more spectators than scene people--and the scene dies. It dies.

    If the millennials had something of their own they'd created. Some kind of simple claim to authenticity. I don't think they understand authenticity. millennials are to authenticity what crosses are to vampires.

    They haven't created or improvised anything of their own. Seeing ravers these days is like watching people dress up as ravers. Going to a punk rock show is like watching people dress up as punks. I'm not sure millennials understand the difference.

    Anyway, that translates into all sorts of horrible traits. Probably worst is the inability to stand up for themselves. I'm not even sure it's even possible since so many of them don't have an authentic self to stand up for.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Politically one might note how substantial millennial support for Ron Paul's candidacy was.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, and that's great.

    Wish there were a lot more like that.

    So, you're a big Ron Paul supporter, are you?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Yes, and Rand now.

    Ron Paul won the young voters here in SC in 2012, I was happy to be a part of that.

  • Not a Libertarian||

    Oh..... South Carolina.

    I believe that to all an sundry, this explains everything

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Hey, SC was the first state to secede from the Union. Libertarian paradise, IOW -- besides Somalia, of course.

  • Not a Libertarian||

    Could you envision a future highly polarized Millennial voting block? Two thirds or so Democratic then a third of strongly Libertarian voters?

  • Daily Beatings||

    "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." - Yogi Berra

  • Tony||

  • MegaloMonocle||

    Bo, we tend to dislike most people.

    Because most people are short-signted, unprincipled idiots.

    Millenials appear to be more of the same, so we dislike them just as much.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Here comes Bo to white knight the Reason staff.

    Quick, Bo! I think someone made fun of Richman's JOOOOOO-baiting on another thread!

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    You're becoming more and more unhinged in your need to criticize the hosts of the very site you post on so much. That's rather sad, isn't it?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    SoCon: Borders are God's Idea, Crossing Them With Out Permission Violates His Law

    "What we learn from the Bible is that borders are God’s idea, and that such borders are to be respected. They are not to be crossed without permission...Our southern border is there by God’s design. To disregard it, to treat it as if were not there, to regard it as something not worth respecting and defending, is an insult to the God who put it there for our benefit."

    http://barbwire.com/2014/07/10.....RkK0ZkU.99

  • Ken Shultz||

    Well, obviously, if Christian fundamentalists say something silly, then...

    Then what?

    What are we supposed to draw from this?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    What do we draw from any of the silly people quoted here, left and right?

    That they're silly.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    In fairness, God has been tardy in putting out the list of borders that he loves, borders he abhors, and borders he just doesn't really care for.

    Surprisingly, God really isn't a fan of the Venezuela-Colombia border, for some reason.

  • unperson||

    um, dummies, the USA is not a democracy. It's a pseudodemocracy. If you had to read the seminal documents of the USA, you would know that. Of course that feat requires a certain high level of reading skills that you do possess.

    So, it don't matter what any working class person wants when it comes to the government. It's NOT a democracy.

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