The Millennial Generation Is Proving to Be the Most Politically Independent Yet


Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Millennials are poised to be the most politically independent generation yet, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. Finally, something that makes me proud of my generation! Actually, there's much to like in Millennial viewpoints, from a libertarian perspective.

Millennials—those born between roughly 1980 and 1995 (some say 2000), also known as Gen Y—are largely in favor of marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage. They worry about the surveillance state. They shun stricter gun laws. Anecdotally, I've known a good deal of young, Occupy Wall Street types who are also incredibly concerned with police brutality, free speech, gun rights, drug policy, and other typically libertarian issues. It's not surprising that 50 percent of Gen Y adults now identify as politically independent (up from 38 percent in 2004). 

Millennials aren't necessarily less conforming to political categories than previous generations (who were plenty paradoxical themselves). But we're less likely to suck it up on certain issues in order to self-identify with either major (or any) political party. And, sure, every recent generation has skewed more politically independent when young. But according to Pew, this year's poll recorded the highest levels of political dissatisfaction in the past 25 years.

Philip Bump says it's hard to see how Pew's new survey could be seen as good news by the Republican party. But boatloads of malleable independents can't be bad news, either. Young independents may tend to lean Democrat, but that's largely because the GOP has mucked things up so badly with social issues and is seen as lacking its own vision of health care reform (plus the first Republican leader most of us knew was George W. Bush).

There would seem to be room for Republicans to pick up young independents if they toned down the culture war rhetoric and focused more on areas where Millennials see President Barack Obama and current Democratic leadership as failing (surveillance, drones, drugs, etc.). But, of course, the GOP is eternally reluctant to court more libertarian-minded voters at the perceived expense of evangelicals. 

A few other interesting findings from Pew's survey of 18- to 32-year-olds: 

  • Only 26 percent are married, compared with 36 percent of Gen X in 1997 and 48 percent of boomers in 1980. 
  • About one-third say they're not affiliated with any religion. 
  • Just over half don't believe there will be any money left in Social Security by the time they retire, and an additional 39 percent think they'll get benefits at a reduced level. 
  • Only 32 percent of Millennials say they're "environmentalists," compared to 40 percent of those in older generations.

White Millennials were more likely to prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services (52 percent) rather than a bigger government that provides more services (39 percent). Non-white Millennials were more likely to favor big government (71 percent to 21 percent), which is similar to the racial divide seen in Gen X and boomers, according to Pew. 

NEXT: NSA Privacy Chief: Civil Liberties a Top Concern

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  1. Ah, generational collectivism. The last refuge of the lazy and simple.

    1. Is looking for trends in groups collectivism?

      1. Looking for trends in groups is completely valid. Looking for trends in wildly diverse and disparate groups like an entire “generation” whose births span fifteen years and have no other relation? Retarded.

        1. Look, dude, you’re a collection of cells acting under the central authority of your nervous system. You are a contradiction. You are in error. You did not discover your mistake, you have made two errors. You are flawed and imperfect. And you have not corrected by sterilization, you have made three errors!

          1. (shoves ProL in transporter, beams him to empty space)

            1. No, you’re doing it wrong.

              I’m e-mailing your cells, suggesting that they defy your oppression and free themselves.

        2. No it isn’t. Can people who don’t understand what ‘collectivism’ is please shut up about it?

      2. Yes. People are individuals. Or are supposed to be.

    2. Perhaps you caught this on an earlier thread.

      I apologize in advance (but not really).

    3. Typical hipster drivel from someone who lives in Seattle and grew up in the NE. You people disgust me.

      1. You’re a towel!

  2. Not according to lefty writers at the Chron:
    “Millennials like Juleah Cordi – hopeful, passionate about causes and totally hooked on politics -”…..295542.php

    Well, there’s actually some hope:
    “In California, a state where real-life political corruption scandals are in the headlines, it’s also no wonder that idealistic, engaged teens like Isabelle Gardner, a junior at Marin Catholic High School and co-leader of the Marin County Youth Commission, may soon be the rare exception.”
    Yes, the little snowflakes might grow up.

    1. From the linked article:
      “Because the hard-working (public servants) who go to work every day just don’t get covered.”
      Like the jerk who tried to tell me I couldn’t burn brush on my own property? He claimed it was a fire hazard because it was too dry. This when every step we took squished with all the rain and snow we’ve had this winter.

      1. Yeah, they commit their petty crimes without any press coverage at all!

  3. In other news, Obama being petitioned by those people doing God’s work in our country’s toughest neighborhoods, who, surprise surprise, will no longer qualify to have all of their student debt forgiven if Obama’s budget magically passes.

    The Presidents proposed 2015 Budget includes a provision that will change the Public Interest Loan Forgiveness (PILF) program by capping overall forgiveness to $57,500.

    1. Please, won’t you vote Democrat?

      1. I don’t know. A couple of very reliably Democrat friends are shocked and hurt that Obama has turned on them. Next time he hits them, they are definitely going to think about leaving him if he doesn’t promise to change.

        1. But there is no possible alternative to voting for the abuser. None.

          1. But then the other abuser might get in!

            1. [Bitch slaps Episiarch ? la Glenn Ford and Erin Gray.] You’ve got one vote and one choice.

          2. Sure, he gets angry, but nobody else can really understand them like he does. To an outsider, it looks like disrespect, but if you were on the inside, you could see how tender and caring he can be. And you know, nobody’s perfect.

        2. Next time he hits them, they are definitely going to think about leaving him if he doesn’t promise to change.

          Leaving him for who?

    2. Does this loan forgiveness all go to traditionally Democratic occupations?

      1. Public defender, inner city school teacher, etc. So yes.

        1. Public defenders? That’s ridiculous. Around here, they make 6 figures plus government retirement cheddar. And absolute job security.

      2. It does. I’m shocked they put this in. I guess that’s the real key to knowing they know it has no chance of passing.

        1. It’s not even debatable that this was produced 100% for the upcoming election. It has no other purpose whatsoever.

          1. NO, WRONG.

            The PSLF was created in 2007 under the Bush Administration. It’s been around for almost 7 years now.

            1. Clearly whoever taught you reading comprehension didn’t deserve that loan forgiveness.

                1. I’m talking about your inability to use context to figure out what the pronouns in Pro Lib’s post were referring to.

                  1. Oh, so you were being an asshole on an unclear sentence that in context could have been talking about loan forgiveness.

                    Fuck off.

                    1. If you think that sentence was unclear then you’ve proven my point about your reading comprehension. And if you think I was being an asshole, you’ve additionally proven that she also failed to teach you about irony, Mr. “NO, WRONG.”

                    2. I was pointing it out in order to help, asshole, not to call someone out. I *like* ProL, which if you had been paying attention to the context of this board, *you* would have known, *asshole*. I wanted to ensure we didn’t keep promulgating falsehoods, asshole, which you could have just *asked* me, instead of being a…well, you know.

                    3. You yelling “NO, WRONG” and calling people assholes is just being helpful, while me pointing out that you were wrong in calling out Pro Lib for being wrong is being an asshole. Got it.

                      As for your context argument, I suggest you stop since you’re making yourself look worse and worse. If you hadn’t been trying to yell at everyone all other the thread you could have taken the 2 seconds to see that Pro Lib was obviously talking about budget which the “top discussion” was actually about.

                    4. Consider further the context of the thread, wherein the top discussion was about loan forgiveness.

                    5. A normal person would have just said something like “Oops. My bad.”

                    6. If he had been approached the way, say, Nikki did it below, then yeah. But instead, you decided to be an asshole.

                    7. You’re the one who started the conversation by yelling at him, not me. If you had approached your (ridiculously off base) “correction” in a different manner, then I probably wouldn’t have been gasp slightly snarky to you!

                2. Pro L was saying this is why the budget was created.

        2. actually, it goes to any government employee, off the top. So, no, it does not just go to PDs and “inner city school teachers”

          Playa Manhattan’s point is a good one, though: there should be an income limitation on this.

          1. Here is a more informative link. Although it still does not address who gets it.

            1. Like I said, it’s been in effect since 2007.

              I find the “household income” thing fundamentally unfair. There’s no reason to penalize one spouse for the other’s borrowing.

              1. I have a couple buddies who married MRS majors who totally agree with you.

                1. I mean, smart people in that situation are just going to get divorced.

                  1. Pfft, everyone knows people would never base their personal decisions on how much money they might cost or save.

              2. There’s no reason to penalize one spouse for the other’s borrowing.

                The spouse is presumably benefitting from all the education that loan bought, so why not?

    3. Public Interest Loan Forgiveness (PILF) program

      I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Missed some more free money, damnit!

      1. Hmm, public interest groups. Naturally most will be left-leaning. But would that apply to, say, someone who works for the Pacific Legal Foundation or the Institute for Justice?

    4. Question: Is Student loan forgiveness counted as income by the IRS, or is there an exception for that too?

      1. If Chase forgives your loan, yes.

        Public Service Loan forgiveness…not taxable!

        1. My god. That is ridiculous.

    5. “If you forgive my insanely stupid accumulation of crippling debt because other morons told me to do it, I’ll vote for you!”

      1. “Say, fellows, maybe guaranteeing a trillion dollars worth of debt with no security other than it not being dischargeable in bankruptcy wasn’t the best idea.”

    6. the hard working employees who work by serving their community often in low-wage jobs


      Social Workers, Speech Pathologists, Lawyers, etc. These dedicated public servants chose to work for the public good

      I thought they work for money; and they have to be paid well, otherwise they would bolt for private, profit-oriented industry.

      Hard to keep the narrative consistent …

      1. Yep. Providing any other kind of good or service doesn’t serve “the public good,” whatever that is.

        1. The millions of cars, planes, medical devices, etc, etc, etc that my company’s software has helped produced? Not a single contribution to the public!

          1. That’s just a method to widen income inequality. If the govt. funded & supervised those developments, then it could have ensured that the janitor is paid as much as the software developer, and as such balanced the unfair differences between the opportunities present for different people. The mere existence of income inequality is de facto proof of inequality of opportunity: if there was real equality of opportunity, then there wouldn’t be income inequality.

            /progressive thinker

      2. If this really was limited to hard-working pubseccers, I’d have less of a problem with it.

    7. Alright, folks, this is for your own erudition:

      1. It’s called PSLF (Public Student Loan Forgiveness), not PILF.
      2. It was started in 2007, not recently.
      3. It does not apply to just “left wing” jobs; it applies to all government work.

      Not defending the program at all, but there seem to be some wild misapprehensions about it.

      1. 3. It does not apply to just “left wing” jobs; it applies to all government work.


  4. I’m insulted that you class me as “Millenial”.

    1. How did “Generation X” get so shortchanged? If a generation is now only 15 years I want the policy back-dated to clear me of any association with “Boomers”.

  5. Good alt-text. Also, “You goddam kids get off my lawn.”

  6. Self-described “independents” who would rather be boiled in oil than vote for someone other than a Democrat?

    Sure, whatever.

    1. “Self-described “independents” who would rather be boiled in oil than vote for someone other than a Democrat?”

      Yeah, they don’t think Obo is handing out enough free shit.

    2. If only someone else would put forth a candidate who was just a little less bad!

  7. They shun stricter gun laws.

    News to me. But the young are a fickle bunch; one more Sandy Hook, and such support will evaporate.

    1. This has been repeated quite frequently here.

      1. Well, tell that to the author. She seems more hopeful about that issue than I and probably everyone else here are.

  8. Anecdotally, I’ve known a good deal of young, Occupy Wall Street types who are also incredibly concerned with police brutality, free speech, gun rights, drug policy, and other typically libertarian issues.

    It’s probably all just a misunderstanding.

    1. Yes, Communists like Jesse Myerson ended up as leaders and front men of Occupy movements across the nation by sheer coincidence.

    2. I would expect that, when a typical OWSer is forced to choose between eating the rich and reducing police burtality, etc.,

      they’ll go with eating the rich.

  9. the GOP… is seen as lacking its own vision of health care reform

    The Obamacare is so awesome it could never be improved on. If it were not associated with the First Black President, Republicans would be falling all over themselves to get their fingerprints on it, according to Ezekiel Emanuel.

    1. I keep reading that the GOP “lacks vision” as to healthcare reform, but I also thought I read they had several proposals more in line with a limited-government solution, like expanding the individual market.

      1. Yes, well, until NYT does an analysis, they have no vision.

        1. “Vision” always seems to mean “needz moar state controlz” in any context with these losers.

      2. I had this conversation with a family member a few months back. Apparently, not having a very similar government run plan equals having no plan.

        1. So what’s the plan?

          They’ve been insisting that we have the best healthcare system in the world, implying that nothing needs to change.

          Is it any wonder young people aren’t buying into it, when they tell such blatant lies on a constant basis?

          1. We probably would have the best healthcare system if it weren’t for all the government overpayments and other government distortions that drastically increase the cost of basic care.

          2. They’ve been insisting that we have the best healthcare system in the world, implying that nothing needs to change.

            The former does not imply the latter, at all. It’s almost like you’ve never been in a competitive environment in your life, and the very thought of one gives you the vapors.

          3. Reduce the regulatory footprint.
            Allow competition for insurance across state lines.
            Expand HSA allowances.
            Meaningful tort reform to reduce the amount of defensive medicine performed.
            Legalize/reschedule more medications to allow cheap and easier distribution.

            When I got poison ivy, my insurer was charged over $500. I was required to be examined by someone with a crap ton of schooling and had to go to a pharmacy to get the pills and topical cream.

            Team Blue says – well we just need to give everybody insurance. And under Obamacare by the time a doctor gets to see you, the poison ivy will either have gone away or you’ll have been in pain for the last six weeks.

            The correct answer is to remove the regulatory barriers that prevent me from going down to the corner store and grabbing the crap off the shelf myself.

            1. And by the way, without regulation the medicine wouldn’t cost very much – see the decreasing cost curve of areas in medicine where the gov has a small footprint.

      3. cw|3.7.14 @ 12:57PM|#
        “I keep reading that the GOP “lacks vision” as to healthcare reform,”

        Yeah, we’ve found out what ‘vision’ in medical care does.
        I’ll take the ‘no vision’ every time.

        1. Actually vision is a decent example of how medical care could be done right. But dental is even better, I think.

  10. I was going to mention that I lived in Williamsburg even before I looked and saw the picture of East River Park….

    …deep, deep groan

    …anyway, my point was going to be = living here and being surrounded by said ‘millennials’ I have been doing an informal survey lasting approximately a decade or so.

    My conclusion is that these are *not* “the Most Politically Independent” generation at all.

    They are the most politically ‘vapid’. They do not conform to categories because on the core issues of “role of government” they have nearly zero real experience or understanding of the issues. They care for institutions only insofar as they see themselves “getting something” out of them. They can be either communists or anarchists on any given issue because all they care about …

    (*again, this is a sample almost exclusively of PBR swilling, cheap-coke doin’, fashion-conscious graphic designers living on mom’s monthy subsidies in Brooklyn)

    … is “what does it mean for *me*” They are the GIMME Generation.

    Oh, but they’ll totally hate on fracking or GMOs at the drop of a hat…. they learn so much from the Twitters.

    1. God Gilmore, aren’t people who do cheap coke the worst?

      1. Anyone who is too stupid to not acetone wash their coke deserves all the horrible throat drip they get.

          1. At least I don’t have parasites!

      2. Coke is cheap again?

      3. I’ve never favored the yay-yo or the people who overdo it regularly. Cheap or not.

        Although to be fair = if you’re in a rock band? It has its purposes.

        Outside of that, it is to blame for an infinite number of deeply impassioned, incredibly stupid fucking conversations. I tolerate them only if they keep their voices down. They generally listen to me. Something I have learned in my brief flirtations with military life is that authority is largely ‘assumed’. Having it is mostly a psychological trick. These kids have no experience with it, and tend to submit immediately after a brief whimper.

  11. Well, that settles it: clearly, we’re in for a libertarian decade as shown by the incredible efforts that Millennials put into advancing classically liberal politics and issues.

    Or not.

  12. Millennials?those born between roughly 1980 and 1995 (some say 2000)

    I thought the pop sociology/ marketing demographics defined millenials as the generation that grew up on the internet. Which would exclude “my parents got AOL when I was 16”. You could still find rotary phones in the 1980s.

    1. They talk about them as if they grew up on the internet, but actually include people going back to 1980 or so who totally did not.

    2. My parents still had a rotary phone in the mid 90s.

      Though the term “millenials” would pretty heavily imply those who came of around around the turn of the millennium.

      1. I was born in 1979 and always had a computer in my home to which I had access, my wife was born in 1987 and had the same experience. Our experiences are still unequal, as there was no mouse in my version of The Oregon Trail.

        1. My most recent ex and I played some Oregon Trail version I had laying around from like 94ish. We had to install some patch to get it to run on a version of Windows this new.

        2. my wife was born in 1987

          *hat tip*

          1. I got lucky. The sub-dermal hematoma she suffered as a youth apparently destroyed her attractiveness filter.

            1. I think you mean “sub-dural”. A sub-dermal hematoma is a bruise. Sub-dural hematomas are bruises beneath the dura mater.

  13. Anecdotally, I’ve known a good deal of young, Occupy Wall Street types who are also incredibly concerned with police brutality, free speech, gun rights, drug policy…

    …and free tuition.

    1. Semi related to this, and the “independent millenials” theme of the thread:

      I’m pretty sure we all saw that story about the 18 year old girl from New Jersey who is suing her parents to get them to pay for her insurance and college tuition. I just discovered an hour ago that the college she’s trying to get them to pay for is my alma mater.

      1. What, Brown?


        1. It’s like you never pay attention to me!

          Thank God for that.

  14. I would think that the kids born in the late 1700’s would constitute the “most libertarian” generation yet.

    1. Huh?

      1. They saw their parents throw off the chains of monarchy first hand and were surrounded their whole lives by people who fought for freedom at great personal risk. Unlike their parents (some of whom were loyalists), they were the first to grow up without being “subjects” of the British Empire.

        1. A very large percentage of them were also perfectly fine with chattel slavery, among other things.

    2. Sure. They’re the ones who went to war to kick out a monarchy and install a no-kidding minarchy.

      No generation before or since has done anything as remotely libertarian as that.

      Second place might go to the generation that fought the Civil War. They get credit for ending slavery, but they have to take a hit for fundamentally undermining the constitutional republic to do so.

  15. How come 100% of the Millenials I have ever met all voted for Obama, watch John Stewart religiously, support Obamacare, the minimum wage, wanted new gun laws after Sandy Hook and feel entitled at their jobs?

    Sorry but the poll is bullshit.

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