Youthful voters who turned out in droves to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 will still likely favor him this presidential election, but without the numbers or enthusiasm the incumbent might wish, says pollster John Zogby. And it's not just disillusionment with a candidate who failed to deliver on impossible promises; Americans in the 18-29 "First Globals" age bracket are drifting away from the Coke vs. Pepsi battle of competing authoritarianisms offered by the Democrats and Republicans, and in a generally libertarian ideological direction.
Writing at Forbes, Zogby reports that First Globals favor — or, really, have less disdain for — Democrats over Republicans. But:
[O]n some key issues, majorities of First Globals are not doctrinaire liberals. The poll found less than majorities agree with liberals on some of their most cherished beliefs. For example: 44% agree health insurance is a right government should provide for those who can't afford it, 43% agree with the same statement about food and shelter, 37% agree government should spend more to reduce poverty, 20% agree government spending is an effective way to economic growth and 28% agree government should do more to curb climate change even at the expense of economic growth. (That last number has to hurt environmentalists.)
Lest Republicans get too giddy at those findings, they should also know less than majorities agree with these conservative and neo-con ideals: 22% agree it's sometimes necessary to attack potentially hostile countries rather than waiting until we are attacked, 23% are willing to give up some personal freedoms for the sake of national security, 39% agree cutting taxes is an effective route to economic growth, 24% agree we should eliminate all barriers to trade, 25% agree recent immigration has done more harm than good, 21% agree religious values should play an important role in government and 25% agree homosexuality is morally wrong.
These attitudes betraying both the traditional left and right fall generally within the bounds of libertarianism.
Zogby's definition of libertarianism in this context is, admittedly, really, really broad. Let me add another "really." But there's a strong sense of live and let live in the survey results, and powerful skepticism aimed at government. A peek at the Harvard University Institute of Politics survey from which Zogby draws his numbers is even more encouraging. For instance, for a cohort among which only a relatively few have begun to deal with the demands of parenting and dickering with education bureaucracies, a surprisingly strong (to me) 37% believe "if parents had more freedom to choose where they could send their children to school, the education system in this country would be better."
Over the 12 months since our last poll on this subject was released, of the 15 issues that we
tested, only one has changed outside the margin of error: 18- to 29- year olds have become less supportive of the concept that basic health insurance is a right for all people, and if
someone has no means of paying for it, the government should provide it.
The results of a hypothetical three-way presidential matchup including Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul give "Obama, 41 percent (losing 2 points from a one-on-one matchup); Romney, 18 percent (losing 9 points); Paul, 13 percent with 27 percent undecided."
Overall, the survey suggests that, while Zogby may be correct in seeing a chance of some young voters "abandoning both parties and instead choosing the Libertarian candidate," the bigger read is declining faith in grandiose government solutions, increasing protectiveness for civil liberties and growing tolerance. That may not be explicit libertarianism, but I'll take it.
Let me insert a plug here for this rather interesting book I stumbled across that seems relevant to this topic: The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America. Has anybody heard of it?