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Millennials Think Government Is Inefficient, Abuses Its Power, and Supports Cronyism

But young Americans also want government to guarantee health insurance and living wages; plan to vote for Democrats in 2014 and 2016

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A Reason-Rupe survey of 2,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 finds 66 percent of millennials believe government is inefficient and wasteful — a substantial increase since 2009, when just 42 percent of millennials said government was inefficient and wasteful.

Nearly two-thirds of millennials, 63 percent, think government regulators favor special interests, whereas just 18 percent feel regulators act in the public’s interest. Similarly, 58 percent of 18-to-29 year-olds are convinced government agencies abuse their powers, while merely 25 percent trust government agencies to do the right thing.

The Reason-Rupe report finds this skepticism of government has millennials favoring general reductions to government spending and regulations:

  • 73 percent of millennials favor allowing private accounts for Social Security; 51 percent favor private accounts even it means cutting Social Security benefits for current and future retirees because 53 percent of millennials say Social Security is unlikely to exist when they retire 
  • 64 percent of millennials say cutting government spending by 5 percent would help the economy
  • 59 percent say cutting taxes would help the economy
  • 57 percent prefer a smaller government providing fewer services with low taxes, while 41 percent prefer a larger government providing more services with high taxes
  • 57 percent want a society where wealth is distributed according to achievement
  • 55 percent say reducing regulations would help the economy
  • 53 percent say reducing the size of government would help the economy
  • 74 percent of millennials say government has a responsibility to guarantee every citizen has a place to sleep and enough to eat

However, millennials also support more government action and higher spending in a number of key areas:

  • 71 percent favor raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour
  • 69 percent say it is government’s responsibility to guarantee everyone access to health care and 51 percent have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act
  • 68 percent say government should ensure everyone makes a living wage
  • 66 percent say raising taxes on the wealthy would help the economy
  • 63 percent say spending more on job training would help the economy
  • 58 percent say the government should spend more on assistance to the poor even it means higher taxes
  • 57 percent favor spending more money on infrastructure
  • 54 percent favor a larger government that provides more services, when taxes are not mentioned
  • 54 percent want government to guarantee everyone a college education

Sixty-two percent of millennials describe themselves as socially liberal, while 27 percent say they are socially conservative.  The gap is much narrower on economic issues, with 49 percent of millennials identifying themselves as economic liberals and 36 percent labeling themselves as economic conservatives.

Millennials’ social liberalism is mixed with strong opposition to many nanny state regulations:

  • 72 percent of millennials say large sugary sodas and drinks should be allowed to be sold
  • 67 percent of millennials favor legalizing same-sex marriage
  • 61 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases
  • 61 percent say people should be able to buy foods containing trans fats
  • 60 percent want to allow e-cigarette use in public places
  • 59 percent say the government should allow online gambling
  • 57 percent say marijuana should be legal, although just 22 percent say cocaine should be legal
  • 52 percent say either the government should not set a legal drinking age or that the legal drinking age should be lower than 21

2014 and 2016 Elections

Of those registered to vote, 76 percent of millennials say they plan to vote in the 2014 midterm elections. Fifty-three percent of registered millennials tell Reason-Rupe they plan to vote for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district this November, while 29 percent intend to vote for the Republican. For Democrats that’s a sharp decline from the 64 percent of millennials who say they voted for President Barack Obama in 2012.

Things look better for Democrats in 2016, however. When asked to select their top choice for president in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the top choice of 39 percent of registered millennial voters, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (8 percent), Vice President Joe Biden (6 percent) and the top Republican, Rep. Paul Ryan (6 percent). Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rand Paul were each the top choice of 5 percent of registered millennial voters.

A majority of millennials, 52 percent, identify themselves as independents when first asked. Just 16 percent self-identify as Republicans, while 32 percent say they’re Democrats.  Including those leaning towards a party, 43 percent of millennials identify as Democrats, 35 percent as independents, and only 23 percent classify themselves as Republicans. 

Millennials don’t identify with the political parties and don’t have much confidence in them. When asked who they trust most to handle a series of policy issues, young Americans say they trust “neither” party to handle 12 of 15 issues surveyed. Millennials do trust Democrats the most on gay marriage, the environment, and poverty, while only trusting Republicans the most on promoting entrepreneurship.

About the Reason-Rupe Poll

The Reason-Rupe national poll, executed by YouGov, surveyed 2,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 online from February 28 to March 11, 2014. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percent.

The complete study, “Millennials: The Politically Unclaimed Generation” by Reason-Rupe Polling Director Emily Ekins, is online here (.pdf).

The topline results are available here (.pdf) and here (.html).

The poll’s crosstabs are here (.xls).

For more information and resources, please visit:

http://reason.com/poll

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

Contacts

Emily Ekins, Director of Polling, Reason Foundation, (310) 574-2961

Kristen Kelley, Communications Specialist, Reason Foundation, (443) 722-5592


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