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White Working-Class Millennials Are Less Christian, More Republican Than Their Elders

Nearly half of young working-class whites do not identify with any religious affiliation.

Granger Wootz Blend Images/NewscomGranger Wootz Blend Images/NewscomA large new report from PRRI and The Atlantic examines white, working-class Americans in an effort to explain what motivated them "to support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of roughly two to one" in the 2016 presidential election. The findings tend toward conventional wisdom—except when it comes to white working-class millennials. It turns out this group breaks from their older counterparts in some unexpected ways.

Less than half of young, white, working-class adults identify as Christian.

For the report, "white working class" is defined as non-Hispanic white Americans without a four-year college degree who hold non-salaried jobs. Overall, 71 percent of white working-class Americans identify as Christian, according to the PRRI/Atlantic report. And among "seniors"—defined as those 65 and older—the percentage calling themselves Christians jumps to more than 80 percent.

But among white working-class young adults—defined here as those in the 18- to 29-year-old age range—just 48 percent identify as Christian, with 16 percent describing themselves as evangelical Protestants, 16 percent as mainline Protestants, 10 percent as Catholic, and 6 percent as another Christian religion. This is about equal to the percentage that said they have no religious affiliation.

At 47 percent, religious unaffiliation for white working-class young adults was significantly higher than religious unaffiliation among 18- to 29-year-old Americans overall (36 percent).

White working-class millennials are more Republican than their elders... but less conservative

In general, young Americans tend to skew toward Democratic Party affiliation. But for the youth of the white working class, the Republican Party is way more popular than the Democratic, according to the PRRI/Atlantic report. More than half of young white working-class voters—57 percent—identify as Republican or at least lean toward the GOP, while just 29 percent identify as or lean toward Democrats

It's no surprise that white working-class young folk might lean more Republican than their richer, non-white, or college-educated counterparts. But here's a departure from conventional wisdom: The youngest adults of the white working class are more likely to lean Republican than the oldest members. In fact, 18- to 29-year-olds here lean more Republican than any other white working-class cohort studied.

For both seniors and those in the 50- to 64-year-old cohort, 51 percent identified as or leaned Republican and 36 percent identified as or leaned Democrat.

The older-millennial/younger-Gen X group—which included white working-class Americans ages 30 to 49—contained slightly fewer Republican Party voters than did the older generations (47 percent) and slightly fewer Democratic Party voters (34 percent). This group was the most likely to identify as politically independent, with 16 percent identifying as such. Just 10 percent of the younger group, 8 percent of those ages 50-64, and 9 percent of seniors in the report identify as political independents.

But while the youngest adults of the white working-class are more likely than their elders to describe themselves as Republican, they are less likely to consider themselves conservative. "White working-class young adults are less than half as likely as white working-class seniors to identify as conservative," according to the report.

Less than a quarter—23 percent—of white working-class young people call themselves conservative, while 26 percent identify as liberal and 40 percent identify as moderate.

White working-class millennials don't think Donald Trump gets it—but their parents love him.

Just 34 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old cohort in question agree that President Trump understands the problems facing their communities. Older members of the white working class are much more likely to endorse this statement, with 47 percent of the 30- to 49-year-old crowd and 46 percent of the majority-boomer group on board. Seniors, however, are more like young adults with regard to Trump here; just 38 percent say he understands their problems.

White working-class millennials lean less authoritarian than their older counterparts.

Nearly three-quarters of white working-class seniors score high for authoritarian orientation, compared to just 43 percent of 18- to 29-year-old working-class whites. This finding probably has something to do with the lower levels of religious affiliation found among younger working-class whites, as pollsters found "profound differences in the degree to which white working-class Americans prefer authoritarian traits by religious identity." For instance, 82 percent of white working-class Protestants and 70 percent of white working-class Catholics were identified as having an authoritarian orientation, compared to just 39 percent of those with no religious affiliation.

Young working-class whites struggle more with alcohol and drug dependency.

Young working-class whites are much more likely than their senior counterparts to struggle with drug- or alcohol-dependency. Some 16 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds say they personally struggle with alcoholism or excessive drinking, versus four percent of seniors. And 13 percent of the younger group says they struggle with drug abuse, versus 3 percent of seniors. The younger group was also more likely to say that someone in their household has struggled with depression (45 percent versus 22 percent).

Young working-class whites think things are getting better.

Asked whether America has changed for better or worse since the 1950s, most working class whites say worse (65 percent). But "there is a notable generational divide among white working-class Americans about the direction of the country since the mid-century mark," the report notes. Just a little more than half (54 percent) of the younger group says America has changed for the worse, while 44 percent say it has gotten better. Only about one-third of working-class whites overall believe that things have gotten better.

Asked whether "things have changed so much" that they "often feel like a stranger" within the U.S., more than half of working class whites age 50 and above agreed but only 42 percent of those under 50 did.

Report methodology note from PRRI/The Atlantic: "The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.1 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The survey included a subsample of 1,956 likely voters. The margin of error for the subsample of likely voters is +/- 2.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence."

Photo Credit: Granger Wootz Blend Images/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Honestly I cannot figure out what influences Millennials to make the political choices they make. I assume it's social media, pop culture and, for that select few like, I suspect, many here at that age, the overwhelming urge to be contrary.

  • Zeb||

    Can you figure it out for any other age cohorts?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Whatever either shuts or fires their spouses up, I assume.

  • The Last American Hero||

    "Greatest Generation" types seem to have fallen into two broad groups - those that feel FDR saved the republic with the New Deal and strongly identified with Team Blue for the rest of their days and those that didn't care for the Commie element in Team Blue and thus affiliated with (the ironically now named) Team Red for the rest of their days. It's a bit more complicated than that, but that generation was more into belonging and loving the expansion of public institutions and they were pretty loyal to TEAM.

    Boomers are more complex as they couldn't seem to square how to best stick it to The Man when they became The Man.

    Within Gen X the breakdown seemed to be a big group in love with Bill Clinton, his sexy sax, and the economic expansion of the 90's vs. people that saw Reagan/Bush as pulling us out of economic malaise, kicking Soviet ass, and showing the military could defeat piss ant countries again. Of course, there were plenty of people not wanting to be affiliated with either team and it's grown since then.

    Painting subsequent groups with a broad brush is a bit tougher. Maybe we need another 20 years behind us to go "oh, look, there's really only 2 types of Millenials" The only thing I know about Millenials is these fuckers like to signal like crazy and that's why they loved Obama so much - look at me being on the right side of history and showing how I'm not a bigot by voting for the black guy.

  • timbo||

    My guess is that political disaffection really started with Bill Clinton. During his tenure was when it became blatantly obvious how corrupt Washington is and that the press was clearly an agent of the DC power brokers.

    Bush further cemented the fact that washington was only working for the cronies and Obama was just the idiot puppet that got the break of a lifetime who stepped on the gas petal.
    The real conundrum about rising youth and their views is that more people cannot realize what a scam it all is and just vote for the smallest gov't guy out there. My guess with rising youth is that the majority of their schooling was spent being brainwashed about climate change and against for profit business.
    I know it takes young people a while to figure out the scam but information that contradicts the narrative is more abundant than ever.

    Religion? Well, the worse people and things get, the more people keep waiting for all of those promises from the bible. What tipped it for me was the Tsunami in 2004 when 230,000 died in about 2 hours. Where was the big guy then? That and all those priests fucking kids.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    So a massive flood that killed a bunch of people caused you to decide that the stories in the Bible are less true?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I can barely get a handle on my own decision-making skills.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I would have actually chosen to vote for Trump if I knew beforehand just how crazy he was going to make everyone. That's my primary motivator these days, seeing people triggered into bizarre behavior that will consume their whole beings.

  • Microaggressor||

    Consider a career in trolling.

  • Dick Puller, Attorney at Law||

    Indeed. At this point it's probably too late to fix the country. I'm only in it for revenge!

  • gclancy51||

    4chan awaits you...

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    It is interesting that they are not actually "left or right," but other than conservatives being ickey - and they are ickey - I don't think there is a pervasive political mindset now anyway, mostly because both dominant political parties basically stand for, "the other guy is Satan Hitler."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They don't know who that is. The other guy is Milo or Lena.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    But I don't think normal people pay attention either one of them.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "Satan? He's the waiter at the pho place downtown, right? I like his koi armband tat."

  • Brandybuck||

    It's not that big of a mystery. As youngsters they naturally lean liberal (not necessarily progressive), but the only Democrats they've known have been Obama and his crew, and maybe their crazy moonbeam governor. They aren't kissing Hillary's backside because they don't have any fond memories of her husband in office. They see her for what she is.

    They don't like Boosh or Chainey either, or any GOP at the national level, but at the local level they see Republicans as the only party that gives half a damn about sane fiscal policy. And half a damn is better than no damn when you have a nation of angry boomers determined to bankrupt their grandkids.

    They only reason there aren't more millennial libertarians is that we've so screwed up our brand name no one wants to be associated with us.

  • Meh.||

    I agree. And I think that a lot of millennials also buy into the whole narrative that a third party vote is unrealistic, selfish, and essentially throwing your vote away.

  • Dizzle||

    And we can thank the high horse political arrogance of people like Michael hihn and bumbling doofus's like Gary Johnson for that.

    Were either viewed as douchebag intellectuals or fiscally responsible stoners. We should be trying to steer our party and the republicans back to a more constitutionally focused path forward on the national level, and trying to win local elections to get our brand and ideas into areas that lean toward our viewpoints (like the Midwest, rural areas of PA, OH, and along the mason dixon, central Florida, Texas, etc) but don't fully understand or embrace them all.

    Instead were whining about foreign interventions, immigration laws, and if Jeff sessions will or won't crack down on state pot laws. I'd say we distracted ourselves because the party lacks leadership outside of the paul's, and they're republicans primarily because the national libertarian party sucks.

    I became a libertarian years ago because I treasure the constitution and want it to regain strength and its original clarity, not because I liked any candidate or platform. If the party stopped worrying about all the peripheral bullshit (especially foreign intervention) and started trying to win local elections from the ground up on limited govt, low tax, free market ideas then the policy changes would come as more libertarians gain political office and move up the ladder.

    But it is more fun to just act like were smarter than everyone else and then bitch about their stupidity I guess..

  • Robert||

    Foreign affairs is scarcely a peripheral issue when it comes to national politics, regardless of party. It would be better if it were, but unfortunately it's a big issue because the USA is involved w so much of it that it'd take maybe a century to wind down from.

  • Gracchus||

    They don't like Boosh or Chainey either, or any GOP at the national level, but at the local level they see Republicans as the only party that gives half a damn about sane fiscal policy. And half a damn is better than no damn when you have a nation of angry boomers determined to bankrupt their grandkids.

    I don't think its the fiscal policy that keeps them Republican. Maybe its because I live in a blue state, but young people seem to base their politics off of who talks to them and who "gets it". The GOP has a lot more contact and infrastructure in working-class neighborhoods, a lot like the old urban machines during the New Deal coalition. What mainstream Democrat talks to young kids in Macomb or Spartansburg? They're too busy taking photo-ops with the stars of Broad City and the Daily Show or attending fundraisers in NYC and LA.

  • Robert||

    The funny thing is that practically all politicians "get" whatever it is. Lack of understanding is not the problem. It's a matter of which interests they represent; they "get" that they're going to screw somebody else, and most of their committed followers do too, I think.

  • Emberesque||

    Libertarianism: A Cause Without Any Rebels

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The older-millennial/younger-Gen X group—which included white working-class Americans ages 30 to 49—contained slightly fewer Republican Party voters than did the older generations (47 percent) and slightly fewer Democratic Party voters (34 percent). This group was the most likely to identify as politically independent, with 16 percent identifying as such.

    So the Declaration of Independents was mainly a Gen-X 90s Kurt Cobain thing?

  • Zeb||

    Duh.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Singles was a great movie.

  • Aloysious||

  • KDN||

    I'm going to wager that Dirt is the best album ever made where 75% of the songs are explicitly about heroin and how great it is. I doubt I'm capable of loving anything as much as Layne Staley loved smack.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    I'd feed her wine and wafers.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But would you perform extreme unction?

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    In a way...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Admit it, your real handle is Friar Bellows.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    I don't understand limey humour.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well, I figured you'd see Friar Bellows and not see the humour in it. Because you take Friar Bellows seriously. Ie, there's no humour in the antics of Friar Bellows.

    Just in case you needed a roadmap with the joke.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    I still don't get it.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Crusty watched Mr. Bean once on accident, and frowned angrily the whole time.

  • SKR||

    Give them a few years to pop out some babies and we'll get those religious affiliation numbers up.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Is that how it works? The combination of sleep deprivation, poverty, and stress that result from having kids combine to alter brain chemistry to the extent that people say "yeah this bullshit makes sense"?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Makes me think of a friend of my sister.

    After a big car accident in which she received quite a concussion, she read and loved the Twilight books. She raved about them to all her friends. Like a year later, when the first movie came out, she was disappointed with it, and insisted the books were better. So she re-read the first book. And realized she'd only liked it because she was brain-damaged at the time.

  • Meh.||

    Interesting stats. They make a lot sense and just so happen to correspond with with what I've observed. In this culture, why would any white, working-class millennial want to identify as a Democrat?

  • Meh.||

    *male. Forgot to add that part.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The lawn belongs to the people.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    What decent choice do millennials have?

    The GOP is filled with old SoCon Christ-Fags. Dems are not much better.

    GO LIBERTARIAN!

  • Inigo Montoya||

    No numbers on those who identified as or lean libertarian? Or are they being lumped in with the "moderates?"

  • EscherEnigma||

    I think that's filed under "margin of error".

  • Robert||

    They did scale them by authoritarian tendencies, not self-identif'n, so I guess they figure the libertarians according to the inverse of that scale.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Vaguely interesting, but I'm not sure what action-items can come out of it.

    Fact is, 2:1 in a demographic is pretty good. Off the top of my head I can only name three demographics that split significantly harder† without breaking down by multiple categories. So I'm not sure what action items you can get out of this, as appealing harder to the demographic probably isn't a winning strategy for everyone else who you simply don't want to alienate any more.

    Well... maybe one. If that "not nearly as conservative" holds for another five years, then it might be a sign that Republicans can ease off the "conservative" side of things to broaden their appeal without significantly hurting their base appeal.

    ________
    †Evangelicals break about 4:1 for Republicans, Blacks break about 4:1 for Democrats, and LGBTs break about 3:1 for Democrats. If you cut things finer you can get other groups that start to break 70% support, but it gets more and more difficult.

  • Robert||

    Well... maybe one. If that "not nearly as conservative" holds for another five years, then it might be a sign that Republicans can ease off the "conservative" side of things to broaden their appeal without significantly hurting their base appeal.


    If they do, I'd be interested to see which tendency within the GOP (or maybe not yet within it), if any, becomes so dominant as to identify the party by. The simplest would be to go back to something like it was 40-50 yrs. ago, when it was Rockefeller-Stassen-Ripon Society types, which was moderate-technocratic-elite-cronyist. Or it might just be, "We're diverse, but agree on being against whatever the Democrats are for," if the Democrats appear monolithic, which they might not.

  • buybuydandavis||

    See that? Unaffiliated were *green*. Pepe is the Voice of a New Generation.

    Praise Kek!

  • Dick Puller, Attorney at Law||

    Given that the greatest contribution of millennials to politics so far has been the alt-right, that's probably not too far from the truth.

  • buybuydandavis||

    In fact, 18- to 29-year-olds here lean more Republican than any other white working-class cohort studied.

    All your Bros are ours.

    Praise Kek!

  • ||

    Less than half of young, white, working-class adults identify as Christian.

    This statement is at best mistaken if not flat out wrong. Unaffiliated =/= Non-Christian especially when there are explicit "Don't know" and "Non-Christian" categories which, *combined* are ~5%.

    Unaffiliated means they are of the Christian faith or culture but not associated with a church or only associated with a relatively local communal church.

    Even if unaffiliated does mean non-Christian, the results and statements are exceedingly deceptive.

  • ||

    Unaffiliated means they are of the Christian faith or culture but not associated with a church or only associated with a relatively local communal church.

    I meant to suggest that it *could* mean this.

    I'm beginning to think it was a (deliberate?) methodological mistake to have just an 'Unaffiliated' category. It would seem to include (e.g.) a hyper-religious, devout Christian family in Idaho that prefers not to be affiliated with anyone/group/Church as well as atheists in the same group. Effectively making ~47% of the data noise.

  • ace_m82||

    For instance, 82 percent of white working-class Protestants and 70 percent of white working-class Catholics were identified as having an authoritarian orientation.

    Apparently, they aren't very good at being Christian either:

    "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

    "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:32, 36

    "For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2

    "Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?" Acts 15:10

    "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again..." Romans 8:15

    "You tolerate anyone who makes you his slaves, devours what you have, takes what is yours, orders you around, or slaps your face!" 2 Corinthians 11:20

    "This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." Galatians 2:4

    "Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." Galatians 4:31

    "For you, brothers, were called to freedom; but do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Rather, serve one another in love." Galatians 5:13

    And so on.

  • CZmacure||

    I would have actually chosen to vote for Trump if I knew beforehand just how crazy he was going to make everyone. That's my primary motivator these days, seeing people triggered into bizarre behavior that will consume their whole beings.
    Sent from Honest Jvzoo Reviews

  • Blue Star||

    White working-class millennials are more Republican than their elders... but less conservative

    "More Republican, less conservative" and 47% non-religious? Hmm, seems like they are fiscally responsible, and not too concerned about the lego model of sexual intercourse.

    good

  • SalmaG||

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