Millennials More Conservative Than You May Think

Jacqueline Howard, CNN, September 8, 2016

It might be time to rethink the millennial voter.

A new paper suggests that Americans are more politically polarized now than they’ve been in the past 46 years, and millennials are guiding this trend.

The young adults, who were born between 1980 and 1994, are currently more politically polarized than Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, according to the paper, which was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on Wednesday.

Additionally, millennials are more likely to identify as conservative than either Generation Xers or Baby Boomers were at the same age, said Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and lead author of the paper.

“High school seniors are more likely to identify as political conservatives now compared to 10 years ago. Most surprising, more identify as conservatives now compared to the 1980s, presumably the era of the young conservative, such as the character Alex P. Keaton in the 1980s show ‘Family Ties.’ That goes against the common view of millennials as very liberal,” said Twenge, author of the book about millennials titled “Generation Me.”

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The new paper reviewed data on about 10 million American adults, collected from 1970 to 2015 as part of three separate surveys: the national Monitoring the Future study, the Higher Education Research Institute’s American Freshman survey, and the General Social Survey.

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The researchers discovered that overall twice as many adults had “extreme” political identifications in the 2010s compared to in the 1970s.

For instance, 1.6% of Americans identified as “extremely liberal” in 1972 compared to 3.7% in 2014. About 2.4% of Americans identified as “extremely conservative” in 1972 compared to 4.2% in 2014, according to the new paper.

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The data showed that millennials are the most polarized political group that the United States has seen in some time, given their age, Sherman said.

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The data showed that, as entering college students, 23% of millennials identified as leaning far right, compared to 17% of Baby Boomers and 22% of Generation Xers.

Less than half–47%–of millennials identified as “middle-of-the-road,” compared to 50% of Baby Boomers and more than half–53%–of Generation Xers.

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