UNCOMMON COMMON SENSE
By Bill Frayer
The Millennials Are Coming!
I am a baby boomer, as are many readers of the Ojo. We grew up in simpler times, remember communism, the assassinations and Vietnam war protests of the 1960’s, the Iran hostage crisis, and the Reagan years in the 1980’s. The events and trends of the last half of the twentieth century have formed our conception of the world. Many of us on the left still hold FDR in high regard and enjoy sitting down to read a paper newspaper whenever we can. Our Generation X children are now in middle age and producing grandchildren for us.
While we were not looking, the largest demographic group today, some 80 million in the US alone, have been sneaking up behind. These young people, the Millennial Generation, born between 1980 and 1999, are now between the ages of 15-34. As this large generation comes into its own, wielding their power in the marketplace and at the voting box, the world is certain to change.
Here are a few facts gleaned from the US Chamber of Commerce: Millennials are more optimistic than older adults with 45% saying they are satisfied. They are tolerant, with 45% suggesting that preferential treatment should be given to less fortunate people. They are comfortable with their gay and lesbian cohorts. They are comfortable with multitasking and technology. (New research on neuroplasticity suggests that their brains may actually be developing in significantly different ways which accommodate information differently.) Many still rely on financial support from their parents. Religion is less important to them, while having a high-paying career is more important.
So how will their emergence affect public policy in the future? Thomas Edsall wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he examined the Millennials’ attitudes towards contemporary concerns. While US Millennials tend to vote heavily Democratic, there are some significant differences with older Democratic voters.
Older liberal voters agreed (67%) that hard work is no guarantee of success any more. Eighty percent believe that “circumstances” are to blame for poverty.
In contrast, 77% of the Millennials believe that people who work hard can get ahead. Only 47% believe that “circumstances” are the reason for poverty. Older Democrats (73%) believe that government should and can do more to solve society’s problems, while 50% of the younger voters believe government is trying to do too much. A 56% majority believes “Wall Street helps the American economy more than it hurts, in contrast to just 36% of the older voters. In a nutshell, it seems as though young voters tend to be quite liberal on social issues like abortion, gay rights, and acceptance of ethnic diversity, they are clearly more conservative on economic issues. They are in favor of helping those who need help, but see the large, federal government-based programs, like the FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, as no longer effective.
It’s easy to understand, in a way. While many of us Baby Boomers are enjoying such benefits as fixed-benefit pensions and affordable health care benefits, many younger voters are expecting that these benefits will not be available for them. They are worried about what will happen to them over the next 60 years.
So, what are we to expect? Many young people are looking at changing paradigms. They favor decentralized government which is responsive to local needs. They have faith in entrepreneurial enterprise to produce wealth and meet their needs. They have faith in technology to produce lifestyle breakthroughs. We may not all agree, but get ready. They’ll be in charge soon enough!