The results of a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll were released today, and they by and large indicate that young adults today are more progressive (based on stances on individual issues and on personal identification) than their parents’ generation. Although this liberalization has been a general tendency in America (and fits the stereotype of the idealistic liberal youth), some may have worried that the rise of the religious right over the last few decades was indicative of a reversal of this trend. That’s not the case.
The pollsters interviewed 659 Americans (giving a margin of error of +/- 4%) of ages 17-29 from June 15-23 and compared the results to a similar poll of adults of all ages. The New York Times article on the poll can be found here, and the full results here. Quite a few of the results are interesting and/or promising, but this in particular caught my eye:
Which do you think would be better for the country: 1. Having one health insurance program covering all Americans that would be administered by the government and paid for by taxpayers, OR 2. Keeping the current system where many people get their insurance from private employers and some have no insurance.
Of the adult population at large, 47% preferred a single-payer system, and 38% preferred the current system. When the 17-29 population was asked this question, though, a whopping 62% went with single-payer, and only 32% opted for the current system. That alone makes me incredibly optimistic that my generation will be the one to finally fix America’s health care crisis.
The younger population was also more progressive on gay marriage, and 58% believed that “possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be treated as a criminal offense.” On the other hand the 17-29 population was generally in line with the whole population on abortion and global warming (although it should be noted that 89% characterize global warming as a serious population and 54% believe that it should be one of the “highest priorities for government leaders”). These generally more progressive stances on political issues translates somewhat into a more moderate-liberal party affiliation (of the 17-29 population, 23% identified as Republican, 35% as Democratic, and 36% as Independent, compared with 29/37/32% for the total adult population) but more so into a more liberal self-identified ideology (28% liberal, 40% moderate, and 27% conservative for the 17-29 population; 20/43/32% for the total adult population).
This, however, may have been the most striking result. The young voters were asked:
Thinking about the candidates now running for President, is there any candidate that you feel enthusiastic about? IF YES: Who is that?
Enthusiastic – 49
Not enthusiastic – 45
Barack Obama – 18
Hillary Clinton – 17
Rudy Giuliani – 4
Mitt Romney – 2
Fred Thompson – 2
Sam Brownback – 1
John Edwards – 1
John McCain – 1
Ron Paul – 1
Al Gore – 0
Dennis Kucinich – 0
Bill Richardson – 0
Tommy Thompson – 0
Impressive! Barack Obama looks great, and even Hillary Clinton, who is often seen as an establishmentarian candidate, excites many more young voters than all of the Republican candidates combined. It’ll be up to the Democrats, then, to turn that enthusiasm into action and votes in 2008 and hopefully into health care reform sometime in the near future.