Young People

Young Americans Age 18-29 Are Less Critical of Government, More Open to Entitlement Reform, and More Socially Liberal

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According to a recent Reason-Rupe survey, young Americans ages 18-29 are less critical of government, more open to change, more trusting overall, and more socially liberal. 

Young Americans are the only age group in which a majority approves of President Obama's job performance (52 percent approve, 42 disapprove). More young Americans approve of Congress' job performance compared to all other age groups. Nevertheless, congressional approval remains extraordinarily low, even for young Americans at 23 percent.

Interestingly, young Americans are most likely to favor a government spending cap at 86 percent, and a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution at 74 percent. They are also most likely to want to primarily rely on spending cuts (62 percent) to deal with the national debt. They are also the most likely group to favor increasing taxes on the wealthy—with the plurality defining wealthy as those earning $100,000-$249,999 a year.

Young Americans also differ from their older peers on entitlement reform. More than any other age group, they overwhelmingly support allowing workers to opt out of Social Security and Medicare at 64 percent and 65 percent, respectively. This is compared to 41 percent among those 65 and older for Social Security and 44 percent for Medicare. They are also the most open to reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits if recipients are guaranteed to still get what they put into the system, with 73 percent for Social Security and 70 percent for Medicare.

The 38 percent of young Americans who do not expect to receive any Social Security benefits and the 44 percent who do not expect to receive any Medicare benefits may in part explain their openness to reforming these programs.

Interestingly, they are the least likely age group to favor raising the retirement age, with 80 percent opposed. They are the most likely to favor means-testing the programs, but still a clear majority (72 percent) believe that all those who paid into the system should receive Social Security benefits. The same is true for Medicare: They are the most open to means-testing, but still a clear majority, 65 percent, believe all those who paid into the system should receive Medicare benefits.

On security issues, they tend to be the most trusting of government security measures, with 61 percent very or somewhat confident that the Department of Homeland Security would prevent a terrorist attack. Seventy four percent believe the TSA has made air travel safer and 59 percent are confident the TSA would catch a terrorist trying to board an airplane.

Young Americans' view of the role for government is nuanced. Substantially more than any other age group—and also the only group to reach a majority—59 percent believe the government should not promote any particular set of values (compared to government promoting traditional values). A majority of young Americans also believe that regulation of business often does more harm than good. At the same time, majorities also believe there is more the government should be doing and that we need a strong government to handle complex economic problems.

Ideologically, young Americans are most likely to be fiscally and socially liberal at 38 percent, then fiscally conservative and socially liberal at 25 percent, then fiscally liberal and socially conservative at 19 percent, and fiscally and socially conservative at 18 percent.

Young Americans are also the most likely to support a presidential candidate who is economically conservative and socially liberal, with 61 percent support, higher than any other age group. They are also willing to consider voting for a third party presidential candidate in 2012, with 62 percent. They are also the least likely to have determined whether or not to vote for President Obama in the 2012 election, with 42 percent who are undecided but will consider voting for him. Young Americans are also most likely to believe (at 37 percent) that the Tea Party is equally concerned with social issues as well as economic issues.

Click here for full survey results.

Survey Methods

The Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9th-18th 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ± 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ± 4.79%. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Clickhere for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.

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  1. Nice survey. To summarize (glibly, but with no disrespect intended): Young people are as naive and inconsistent as they’ve always been. $100,000/yr == Wealthy. LOL. I have to joke about this stuff or otherwise I’d get depressed. I mean, look at those numbers for the TSA.

    1. Fine – young people are naive and inconsistent. Same could be said about the other age groups. This article demonstrates basically nothing.

      1. Way to perpetuate the stereotype.

    2. I could readily sock away 80% of that $100,000/yr without a second thought. Damn right, that’s serious money.

  2. This just in: young people still dumb as fuck, details at 10:00.

  3. We are the future. I just want to apologize in advance.

    1. Why should you apologize? It’s previous generations who have left this country saddled with its massive financial burdens. If the young generations have to be the owns to tear the system apart (we will be put in this position apart), good for the young.

  4. Gee, “People with sore thumbs from playing Nintendo Wii, $20 in their checking account and no life experience more socially liberal.” Go figure…

    1. I’m a member of this age group and a bit offended by this comment. As much as I love playing video games, I have a bit of money and quite a bit of life experience. At 25, I have a PhD in physics from a top tier university, ~$50k in the bank (not easy on a PhD salary), am partial owner in an LLC which is just starting to make money, and have great job prospects. Hardly the stereotypical “young person” you describe. And guess what…there are millions more in this age group who are just as hard working. We happen to have socially liberal perspectives because we realize that conservatives’ positions on things like immigration, the drug war, gay rights, etc are untenable and completely inconsistent with any respect for individual rights.

      I could characterize the older generations as a bunch of stupid motherfuckers who were unable to save a dime during the course of their lifetimes and have to resort to generational theft (in the form of SS and Medicare) to make ends meet. But I don’t engage in age/class warfare. And neither should you.

      1. This is not to suggest that I am a “liberal” (well, I am, but only in the original meaning of the term). I would gladly close entire federal departments. “Socially liberal, fiscally conservative is”, I believe, the phrase in vogue.

      2. DK, have a child or two, come back in about 10 to 15 years and talk to us stupid mother fuckers then. Love how you can’t stand to be stereotyped, but you have no problem stereotyping others.

      3. When those frontal lobes finally mature, DK, finally are able to use the knowledge you imply you have gained then and only then will you start to acquire knowledge. Slow down a little and stop with the “brain vomit”!

        1. “then and only then will you start to acquire wisdom” Sorry, Sport

    2. as opposed to 50 years ago when it was “playing with a stick and eating lead paint?”

  5. Looks like the 80’s has produced the Goofus and Gallant generation.

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  10. Of course they are, it’s not their money…yet.

    1. and it never will be, the debt we’ll be paying off from the older generation will ensure none of us will be successful

  11. Young people are the future. The Older generation has failed us.

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  13. DK, have a child or two, come back in about 10 to 15 years and talk to us stupid mother fuckers then. Love how you can’t stand to be stereotyped, but you have no problem stereotyping others.
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  15. I could characterize the older generations as a bunch of stupid motherfuckers who were unable to save a dime during the course of their lifetimes and have to resort to generational theft (in the form of SS and Medicare) to make ends meet. But I don’t engage in age/class warfare. And neither should you.

  16. Being in the youngest group I must admit to being disadvantaged by my relative ignorance of the world & people.

    I can certainly understand how a charismatic politician & goverment could take advantage of that ignorance. Particularly after having so recently spent ~13 years in goverment schools.

  17. DK, have a child or two, come back in about 10 to 15 years and talk to us stupid mother fuckers then. Love how you can’t stand to be stereotyped, but you have no problem stereotyping others.

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  22. Shocking what people can be made to believe after being subjected for their first twenty years to government controlled schools, a state-aligned media, and a collectivist entertainment industry, isn’t it?

    1. Most people grow up brainwashed by someone, if it wasnt the government schools, it would be their homeschooling parents, most of whom are religious nuts. I think when people enter the workforce and get out of mommy and daddy’s house, they learn to think for themselves. It’s just happening at a later age now since kids don’t have jobs that let them live on their own

  23. I hate to say it, but envy and entitlement mentality of the millennials (as demonstrated by OWS) is such the same envy and greed which causes them to favor Social Security and Medicare reform will make them vociferous defenders of Social Security and Medicare when they reach middle age. I noticed no questions about college education financial aid in the survey. Questions regarding the government benefits one is currently getting is the only way to determine one’s true opinion on entitlements. Just look at the middle class members who oppose any income tax reform which would end the mortgage interest tax deduction.

    Overall: Survey FAIL.

    1. the entitlement comes from being raised to believe “go to college and you’ll get a job, if not you’re a failure and have to flip burgers”. So kids go to college and find there are no jobs except the burger joints, and that they’ve been lied to by almost everyone who promised them instant gratification.

  24. I envision a stoned student population and wonder what price we will pay.

  25. landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Clickhere for full methodological details.

  26. Ron Paul’s ability to gain favor among young Republicans may foreshadow a re-shaped Republican coalition in years to come.

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  37. Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9-18 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ? 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ? 4.79 percent. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Clickhere for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll’s fieldwork. View full methodology. – ????? ??????
    ????? ???????

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