Millennials Don't Like Either Party, Democrats Viewed as the Better of Two Bad Options


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

Millennials don't have much confidence in either of the two major political parties. When asked who they trust most to handle a series of issues, neither Democrats nor Republicans receive a majority of support on any of the 15 issues surveyed. Instead pluralities say they trust "neither" party to handle 12 of the 15 issues.

Pluralities trust Democrats the most on gay marriage, the environment, and poverty. Republicans only marginally exceed the Democrats on promoting entrepreneurship. In fact, even Republican millennials don't trust the Republican Party across most of the issues. 

Half of millennials (50%) say they trust neither party to handle privacy, with 27 percent trusting Democrats and 17 percent saying the same of Republicans. Dissatisfaction with both parties is understandable given that both parties have staked nearly the same position on the issue and both President Obama and President Bush expanded surveillance programs. Those who disagree with the status quo on domestic surveillance lack a partisan alternative to represent their views.

Likewise, millennials don't have many options to choose from if they care about fiscal responsibility either. Large pluralities trust neither party on government spending and the budget deficit.

Notice—these two issues, spending and the deficit, have historically advantaged Republicans, yet today less than a quarter of young adults say they trust Republicans to handle these issues now.* Instead, more trust Democrats (3 out of 10) than Republicans.

Other issues that have traditionally advantaged Republicans, such as taxes and foreign policy, don't garner support for either party and see Republicans losing ground to Democrats. A third of millennials trust Democrats to handle taxes and foreign policy, a quarter trust Republicans, and nearly four in 10 trust neither.

Although civil liberties and fiscal responsibility are important issues for millennials, the economy and jobs are given highest priority. Neither party has convinced a majority that their approach is best. However, nearly twice as many trust Democrats (37%) as Republicans (21%) to promote job creation. Another 37 percent say neither party is best at promoting jobs in the economy.

Drug policy is another issue where both parties take similar positions and millennials trust neither. Forty-one percent say neither party can adequately handle drug policy, but slightly more trust Democrats (32%) than Republicans (21%).

The only issue on which Republicans could credibly compete with Democrats is promoting entrepreneurship: 28 percent trust Republicans and 27 percent trust Democrats. While Republicans talk about promoting small business, start-ups, and entrepreneurship, it is possible that young people either have not heard this message or don't think Republicans are serious or competent on the matter. However, millennials don't think Democrats will do a very good job either in fostering entrepreneurship either.

While millennials have little confidence in Republicans to handle important issues, their view of Democrats isn't much better. On issues that Democrats have traditionally had an advantage on, such as education, immigration, and health care, trust in Democrats doesn't exceed 40 percent. Nevertheless, support for Democratic handling is double that of Republicans for education (37 to 17 percent) and immigration (37 to 18 percent).

While a slim majority (51%) say they have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act, the Democratic overhaul of the health care system, only 36 percent of millennials say they trust Democrats to handle health care overall. Only 21 percent trust Republicans; a plurality (37%) say neither party can properly handle health care issues.

Even Republicans Don't Trust the Republican Party

Another reason Democrats are handily beating Republicans is that even Republican millennials trust the Democratic approach on a number of issues. Nearly a third of Republican millennials prefer Democrats' handling of same-sex marriage and the environment, and a quarter prefers Democrats' handling of poverty. No more than 15 percent of Democratic millennials trust Republicans on any issue.

Compiling these results into a Party Trust Index shows that not even Republican millennials trust the Republican Party to competently handle the nation's most pressing concerns. On all 15 issues combined, only 47 percent of Republican millennials primarily trusted the Republican Party while 69 percent of Democratic millennials trusted the Democratic Party.

Political science research has shown that political independents tend to lean one partisan way or the other, but millennial independents are still overwhelmingly unwilling (79%) to endorse the parties on the issues. Of all millennials, 28 percent refused to endorse either political party on any of the 15 issues surveyed.

Among the millennial cohort, Republicans are no longer viewed as most competently able to handle issues on which they have historically had the advantage. While Democrats aren't viewed favorably either, they are viewed as the better of two bad options. Given millennials' low level of confidence in both major political parties, it is less surprising that more than half initially say they are independent rather than affiliate with a partisan label they don't trust.

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