As we look forward to the Fourth of July holiday next week, when Congress goes home to face the voters (and you have a chance to reach them locally to tell them what you think), word comes via the NY Times that the Next Generation is looking promising. A Times/CBS News/MTV poll on those 17-29 (born between 1978 and 1990) finds this group, which straddles Generation X (born 1962-1981) and the Millenial Generation (born 1982 to 2001), to be one of the more liberal generations in recent memory.
Among the more remarkable findings, since giving Mister Bush a more than 80% favorable rating after 2001,
They have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party. And although they are just as worried as the general population about the outlook for the country and think their generation is likely to be worse off than that of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can make a difference, the poll found.
More than half of Americans ages 17 to 29 — 54 percent — say they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008. They share with the public at large a negative view of President Bush, who has a 28 percent approval rating with this group, and of the Republican Party. They hold a markedly more positive view of Democrats than they do of Republicans.
In part, their positive view of Democrats may come from a sense of shared values as well as disillusionment with GOP incompetence. For the first time in decades more young people describe themselves as liberal (28%) than conservative (27%). Moreover,
By a 52 to 36 majority, young Americans say that Democrats, rather than Republicans, come closer to sharing their moral values, while 58 percent said they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, and 38 percent said they had a favorable view of Republicans.
Asked if they were enthusiastic about any of the candidates running for president, 18 percent named Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and 17 percent named Mrs. Clinton, of New York. Those two were followed by Rudolph L. Guiliani, a Republican, who was named by just 4 percent of the respondents.
The survey also found that 42 percent of young Americans thought it was likely or very likely that the nation would reinstate a military draft over the next few years — and two-thirds said they thought the Republican Party was more likely to do so. And 87 percent of respondents said they opposed a draft.
Surprisingly, they are more optimistic than their elders that the US will be successful in Iraq, with a bare (51%) majority finding that the US very or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq. They are pessimistic about the future--70% said the country is on the wrong track and 48% expect their generation to be worse off than their parents. But 58% say their are paying attention to next year's election and 77% thought their generation's votes would significantly affect the 2008 Presidential election.
According to the Theory of Generations of William Strauss and Neil Howe, the Millenial Generation should be a "civic" generation after the mold of the "GI Generation" (born 1901-1924), enthusiastic, gregarious, optimistic and active in a more pragmatic "can do" fashion than have been the idealistic Boomers (across all ideologies). In contrast, the more cynical (with reason) post-boom Generation X, the counterpart of the "Lost" Generation of the 1920's (born 1883-1900), which came of age during the Reagan years, has remained in many ways more conservative than the generations on either side of it.
The findings of the NY Times et al. survey portend a more receptive audience for progressive ideas to solve such problems as health care and global warming. They mirror the findings of the Media Matters report that the public as a whole is far more liberal and receptive to liberal/progressive solutions than the media and punditocrisy would have us believe. If this generation does organize to demand a better world, there may be hope for rebuilding our democracy and reclaiming a better future.