Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Millennials Opt for Meritocracy Over Egalitarian Society

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

If millennials had to choose, 57 percent would rather live in a society where "wealth is distributed according to achievement" while 40 percent would prefer a "society where the gap between rich and poor is small regardless of achievement."

The World Values Survey has asked this same question on surveys across the globe, to measure people's preferences for a competitive/meritocratic society or an egalitarian society where incomes are more equal. American millennials are solidly in the competitive, meritocratic camp.

Economic conservatism is strongly tied to a preference for a competitive, meritocratic society and economic liberalism tied to preference for an egalitarian society. Economically conservative millennials, 79 percent prefer a competitive society, compared to 45 percent of strong economic liberals. Conversely, 53 percent of strong economic liberals prefer an egalitarian society compared to 20 percent of strong economic conservatives.

There are not many significant differences across demographic groups, but political groups do vary.

Egalitarian preferences correlate highly with attitudes toward government and the economic system. Egalitarian millennials say government should redistribute wealth (60%), say socialism is better than capitalism (51%), and prefer a larger government with more services (56%). Millennials who prefer a competitive/meritocratic system are essentially a mirror image, and say government does not have a responsibility to reduce income differences (59%), prefer capitalism over socialism (59%), and favor a smaller government (56%).

Conservatives (72%) and libertarians (83%) strongly favor a competitive/merit-based society, as do 57 percent of moderates, 49 percent of liberals, and 44 percent of progressives. Progressives and liberals are more likely to favor an egalitarian society, 54 and 50 percent respectively, as are 40 percent of moderates, 27 percent of conservatives, and 16 percent of libertarians.

Some may be tempted to dub millennials the "everybody gets a trophy generation." But ultimately, when push comes to shove, millennials opt for meritocracy over an egalitarian society. 

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