Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais New Geography, 1 March 2012
Their experiences with the Great Recession have only reinforced Millennials’ support for economically activist government. Last November, when Pew asked whether Americans preferred a larger government that provided more services or a smaller government that provided fewer services, Millennials opted for a bigger government over a smaller one by a large 54% to 35% margin. By contrast, 54% of Boomers (born 1946-1964) and 59% of Silents (born 1925-1945) favor a smaller government. .
In addition, a majority of (55% to 41%) Millennials favored a greater level of federal spending to help the economy recover from the recession rather than reducing the federal budget deficit. Millennials also continue to support governmental efforts to lessen economic inequality; 63% agreed that government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep. Consistent with their overall attitudes toward the size of government, the two oldest generations—Boomers and Silents—favored reduced spending and a more limited government role in promoting economic equality.
The tendency of people to retain their political viewpoints and preferences throughout their lives suggests that once they are set, Millennial Generation attitudes toward government’s proper role in the economy will persist for decades. This conclusion was recently confirmed by economists Paola Giuliano and Antonio Spilimbergo.
I grew up during the period which was the last hurrah of the old FDR New Deal, morphed to LBJ’s Great Society, where the Republicans tended to be pro-business liberals, and often the Southern Democrats were Social status quo conservatives, andsaw that changed to a Reagan-New Democrat paradigm.
But there was an in between step: I would call it the Vietnam-Watergate malaise. And while the malaise lasted well into Reagans first term - arguably ending with the Invasion of Grenada- it did not seem to stick. The George McGovern version of liberal social policy is not without its influence, but the continued election of New Democrats to national office shows that much of the purer form of the ideology is not subscribed to. Of course Republicans call all of them liberal, it is important to distinguish between your brands of liberalism. As with the Republicans, it will tell you what type of wrong-headed policies they will be pushing.
I think some of this self-identification stickiness is retrospective. People have a mixed up muddle of often contradictory beliefs at any one time. While it is true that current believes are contiguous with past beliefs - we don’t make ourselves over whole cloth- it is also not really clear which set of those beliefs will be the ones that are carried for.
The idea that it will be “liberal views” as roughly set forward by any particular brand, - the (barely existing) FDR, LBJ, McGovern, or New Dem movements – is not a given. I would argue that it is not even a given that what will come out of it will look particularly liberal (or conservative) by today’s standards. It will simply look different. And party politics and the media will tend to make it seem as if it were all a seamless whole.