Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Millennials Say Govt Is Wasteful (66%) and Govt Agencies Abuse their Power (58%)

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

Reason-Rupe's latest study of millennials finds that while millennials support government action; however, they also believe government comes with its own problems. They have come to view government as wasteful and inefficient, recognize the potential for regulatory capture and also agency corruption.

66 Percent of Millennials Think Government Is Wasteful

The perception that government is wasteful and inefficient has surged among millennials in the past five years.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center found that only 42 percent of millennials thought government was "usually inefficient and wasteful," compared to six in 10 among Americans over 30. This number has crept up in recent polls. By 2014, using the exact same wording as the question Pew asked in 2009, we found the share of millennials who agree the government is wasteful and inefficient has shot up to 66 percent, while 32 percent disagree.

Even millennials who favor a broader role for government view it as wasteful. Fully 57 percent of millennial Democrats say government is wasteful, as do 69 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans.

63 Percent Say Regulators Favor Special Interests Over the Public

Millennials generally favor government regulation of business to protect the public interest. However, nearly two-thirds (63%) say that when government regulators write and implement regulations, they generally act on behalf of narrow special interests, not the public. Only 18 percent think regulators generally have the public interest in mind when deciding how to regulate businesses, and another 19 percent aren't sure. While liberal and moderate millennials are more trusting of regulators, majorities of liberals (56%) and moderates (59%) still expect special interests to benefit more than the public from regulations. Conservatives (82%) and libertarians (85%) are the most likely to say special interests benefit the most.

58 Percent Say Government Agencies Generally Abuse Their Power

In the aftermath of government contractor Edward Snowden's revelations about the federal government's surveillance programs, the American people have been essentially asked to trust government officials to do what is right. However, Reason-Rupe data reveal that millennials don't believe government agencies generally do the right thing.

The Pew Research Center found that young people were more supportive than older cohorts of Edward Snowden's choice to release classified information about the existence of government surveillance: 60 percent said it served the public interest and 34 percent said it harmed it. Moreover, they were the only age group to disapprove (55%) of the data collection program.

The Reason-Rupe millennial poll finds one driver of support for Edward Snowden is that 58 percent of millennials think "government agencies generally abuse their power" while only 25 percent think they "generally do the right thing."

Concern extends beyond partisanship. Majorities of Democrats (53%), independents (53%), and Republicans (73%) worry government agencies abuse their power. Nevertheless, Democrats (33%) are nearly twice as likely as Republicans (16%) to believe these agencies do the right thing. There are only small differences across race/ethnicity, although African-American millennials (66%) are slightly more likely than their peers (56%) to believe government agencies abuse their power.

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