What do gun rights and gay marriage have in common among millennials? Surging support. A recent NPR article notes that people younger than 30 in the United States “are no more liberal on gun control” than earlier generations, “despite diverging from their elders on the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage and other social issues.” The article seems to view this as a puzzling anomaly — why are American youth more liberal in some areas but not in others? The answer, though, is simple. Even if they don’t know or embrace the label, millennials increasingly hold libertarian views.
“Being in favor of the right to self-defense, to marry whomever one chooses, to medicate or recreate responsibly, to stay out of foreign civil wars — these positions all have something in common,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “They all involve taking responsibility for one’s own life and bettering the world through persuasion, not coercion. These are all core libertarian values.”
For several years, the Pew Research Center has periodically asked the question: “What do you think is more important – to protect the right of Americans to own guns, OR to control gun ownership?” In 2007, only 20 percent of millennials responded in favor of the right to own guns. Ten years later, that figure had more than doubled to 44 percent. That’s approximately the same percentage as the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, and Generation X.
The Pew Research Center has also been asking about support of same-sex marriage. Among millennials, the percentage in support has climbed from 53 percent in 2007 to 74 percent last year. Support for gay marriage among the earlier generations, although lower, is still rising over time. All generations except the Silent Generation now voice majority support for gay marriage.
A study by the Reason Foundation and the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation showed that the millennial generation is the first generation to voice major skepticism about the viability of Social Security. Polling showed that 64 percent of millennials doubt that Social Security will provide the same benefits when they retire as it provides today. A full 75 percent of millennials favor the option of diverting Social Security payments to private retirement accounts instead.
More millennials than other generations support liberalizing immigration policy, legalizing cannabis, and staying out of foreign wars.
“These are all signature Libertarian Party issues,” Sarwark said. “Gallup polling found that 27 percent of Americans can be characterized as libertarian — a clear plurality. Conservatives come in at 26 percent, liberals at 23 percent, and populists at only 15 percent. There is a sea change coming in the American electorate, and we plan to make the Libertarian Party a powerful vehicle for rising libertarian views. As part of that effort, we will run more than 2,000 candidates for local, state, and federal office this year. We’re well on our way.”