Government Spending: Majority of Americans Support It, So Don't Blame Millennials

A common misconception rampant on political forums and comment streams on popular sites like Huffington Post and PolicyMic is the embittered notion that millennials are a generation expecting government socialism, handouts, the Nanny State, and ongoing "liberal" programs.

But guess who most wants to maintain current spending levels and avoid cuts?

The majority of Americans.

This fact (presented below in data just released from Pew Research) tells us that as the millennials age and Gen X and Baby Boomers die off or get too old to hobble to the polls, then the millennial generation might continue spending priorities similar to today, but they are only a fraction of the concern. If liberal ideals are "wrong" and destined to ruin the country, critics of the generation must face the fact that their asserted doom is happening right now, and the millennial generation at 80 million strong nonetheless comprises about 26% of the 313 million Americans.

Twenty-five million millennials may be leaning liberal as of today, arguably lacking more than 10 adult years of reference to the full impact of government policies, but the greater blame or credit (depending on one's political view) of a nation hell-bent on tax and spend lies more greatly with Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Meanwhile it must be conceded to the conservatives that indeed their party overwhelmingly supports cuts nearly across the board:


While it's notable that millennial Democrats trump millennial Republicans 55% to 36% and millennials are credited with taking Obama's victory over the top in 2012, consider that well over 125 million Americans voted. Millennials, 23 million voters of the 80 million population), comprised 19% of that total voting population, according to some reports.

Points can be made by observing the data a variety of ways, but characterizing the millennials as the current widespread push (and perhaps "problem") for ongoing spending is not only misinformed, it's mean-spirited of hard-line critics who take this stance. Their knowledge of our nation's population size in contrast to the size of the millennial population is sorely lacking.

So what's really going on? Pew Research reported on February 22:
"For 18 of 19 programs tested, [Americans] want either to increase spending or maintain it at current levels. The only exception is assistance for needy people around the world. Nonetheless, as many say that funding for aid to the needy overseas should either be increased (21%), or kept the same (28%), as decreased (48%)."

Here's the breakdown:


So while resentful Gen Xers and Boomers, and even voices from within the millennial generation, pound the drum of caution against the perceived tendency of millennials to expect high government spending, it must be noted that the majority of Americans march to the beat of spend, spend, spend. If the millennials are caught up in that mantra, it's only because they fit a particularly obvious American sentiment: right or wrong, we find it hard to give up our high cost programs. 

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James Wolfensberger

Previous life: Air Force then IT executive and entrepreneur. Currently a documentary director/producer and media-maker.

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