Millennials are much more progressive in their political outlooks than previously understood, even if they self-identify as Republican, according to a new Pew Research study, Political Polarization in the American Public.
While the study shows evidence that Americans are more divided by party lines than ever before, that dividing line is more pronounced in older generations. Younger generations are increasingly more liberal with their ideological stances, making Millennials (currently ages 18-33) the most liberal age group alive today.
The research study used a scale based on 10 “political values questions” on the role of government, the environment, homosexuality and other issues to measure ideological consistency. The findings are enough to give the GOP pause when trying to court young voters:
Today, about half of Millennials (50%) are Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, while just 34% affiliate with or lean to the GOP. By comparison, Baby Boomers (those ages 50 to 68) lean slightly Democratic (46% Democratic/Democratic leaning, 42% Republican/Republican leaning), while those in the Silent generation (ages 69 to 86) are about evenly divided (47% Republican/Republican leaning, 44% Democratic/Democratic leaning).
But in addition to the generation’s Democratic tendency, Millennials who identify with the GOP are also less conservative than Republicans in other generations: Among the roughly one-third of Millennials who affiliate with or lean Republican, just 31% have a mix of political values that are right-of-center, while about half (51%) take a mix of liberal and conservative positions and 18% have consistently or mostly liberal views. Among all Republicans and Republican leaners, 53% have conservative views; in the two oldest generations, Silents and Boomers, about two-thirds are consistently or mostly conservative.
Nothing illustrates this gap better than the Millennial view on homosexuality; it’s no big deal.
64% of Republican-leaning Millennials think that homosexuals should be accepted by society. The generation that has grown up with gay characters on Glee, in an age that young people tend to “come out” earlier than ever, tends to view gay people as, well.. people. Not a political issue to be outlawed, regulated or banned. In fact, if you talk to any Millennials on a regular basis, you might end up surprised; a lot of the younger generation doesn’t understand why homosexuality has been politicized in the first place. (Libertarians and young Republicans may even frame gay marriage as a libertarian issue, with an out-of-control government trying to legislate religious morality.)
What’s really fascinating about self-identifying Republican Millennials — about 50% of them aren’t very conservative at all when it comes to social issues, the environment, and immigration. This leaves a true gap between the Republican Party’s platform and the beliefs of the younger set. Time can only tell if this ideological beliefs are enough to have them vote against candidates chosen by the party or abandon it altogether. I’m guessing we’ll get a glimpse of what’s to come when (or, if?) they vote in the upcoming elections.
That being said — make sure you tell the young people in your life why voting matters and how it affects these issues. Last spring, a survey showed that only 25% of Millennials plan to vote in the midterm elections.