Despite what the left would have you believe, young Americans are actually not becoming more progressive. A professor of Psychology at San Diego State University explained why in a TIME Magazine op-ed by the same name: “Young Americans are Actually Not Becoming More Progressive.”
According to Jean M. Twenge, “it’s crucial to understand why nearly two out of five iGen’ers and young Millennials voted for not just a Republican candidate but a candidate affiliated with a white nationalism many thought had died out long before iGen was born.”
Twenge makes the important distinction between Millennials, born 1980 to 1994, and iGen, born 1995 to 2012. Both are more conservative than originally predicted, but it’s the younger Millennials and iGen who are reportedly the most conservative generation — more conservative than the Reagan-era GenX teens of the 1980s.
While some may chalk this up to naivety and believe that kids will grow into liberal political leanings, young Americans represent the future of the political landscape: 18-to-29 year olds are now an equal or a larger percentage of voters than those over 65.
After all, 37 percent of young adults voted for Trump (about the same as voted for Mitt Romney in 2012,) with Trump winning among white young adults by 48 percent to 43 percent.
Twenge says that younger voters seem contradictory at first glance.
“They are more likely to support abortion rights, same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and less likely to support the death penalty — usually considered liberal beliefs. But they are also less likely to support gun control, national health care and government environmental regulation — usually considered conservative beliefs.”
These seemingly contradictory ideas are easily reconciled when viewing policy from an individualistic lens. Young voters were “raised in a highly individualistic culture favoring the self over the group” and therefore take libertarian stances on almost every policy issue.
“Individualism promotes ‘come as you are’ and ‘just be yourself’ … For all his prevaricating, many said they voted for him because he says exactly what he thinks,” Twenge said of Trump.
Keeping these characteristics in mind, 54 percent of young voters identify as independents and could support future candidates on either side of the aisle.
“[C]onventional politicians face an uphill battle trying to attract them. Yet the candidate who does — likely authentic, casual and libertarian in her positions — will hold the key to the next political era,” the psychology professor concluded.
Twenge’s analysis of young voters strips away the political talking points and explains what makes millennials and iGen tick. Politicians and political parties would be smart to serve young people’s interests more readily — without them, they won’t be elected.