Having a progressive institution such as the Center for American Progress (CAP) produce a study that doesn’t show Millennials, ages 18 to 29, to be largely progressive would defeat the researchers’ goals. Thus, it is not surprising that two new studies released by CAP argue that Millennials are the most progressive generation yet.
But if the first study, The Political Ideology of the Millennial Generation, is any indication, going progressive in America means, well…center-left leanings at most. “Based on responses to 40 ideological statements grouped in four areas…we calculated an aggregate measure of ideological positioning based on a scale of ‘0’ to ‘400,’ with ‘0’ being the most conservative position on the continuum and ‘400’ being the most progressive,” states the study. “Younger Americans as a whole record a mean ideological score of 221.6, with the youngest group, ages 18 to 24, coming in more progressive in aggregate (224.6) than those in their mid- to late twenties (217.6).”.
In other words, the more progressive youth cohort surveyed demonstrated a 6.15 percent difference from a neutral or centrist political ideology. Overall, the respondents showed only a 5.4 percent differential from a strictly centrist score, assuming that the CAP ideology metric is unbiased, which is debatable.
The study questioned 914 youth between the ages of 18 and 29, the vast majority of which (790) were surveyed via the internet.
According to the CAP study’s authors, John Halpin and Karl Agne of Gerstein/Agne Strategic Communications, liberal Democrats—the left’s farthest outliers—scored around 245.9, a 12.3 percent difference left of center. “Conservative Republicans” scored 179.1.
The CAP researchers deliberately made conservative arguments unattractive in their survey and kept several “progressive” statements vague.
For example, on the issue of government regulation of the economy, the study asked whether a person agreed with the statement “Government regulations are necessary to keep businesses in check and protect workers and consumers.” The question does not indicate the strength, number or character of such regulations, but those who agreed are marked as “progressive.”
Authors presume that when youth agreeing that “The federal government should guarantee affordable health coverage for every American” they must likewise support universal health care, even though the survey says nothing about a single-payer or government-run system.
“And in a harder test of support for universal coverage—a National Election Survey [NES] question that asks whether health insurance should come from a government plan or the private sector—61 percent of Millennials, compared to 52 percent of 30- to 59-year-olds and 41 percent of people over 60, supported a government-provided universal health insurance plan,” wrote David Madland in the second study, New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation.
About a year ago Madland, the Director of CAP’s American Worker Project, spearheaded a study which used NES data improperly in order to demonstrate progressivism among youth; in some cases Madland based his data off sample sizes as small as 225 respondents. Respected pollster Scott Rasmussen told this correspondent last year that “Practically speaking, I would never do that” when questioned about Madland’s research methods.
Not surprisingly, Madland also influenced Halpin and Agne’s study; he is one of four researchers helping with “survey drafting and analytical research.”
“Of the 21 values and beliefs garnering majority support in our recently completed national study of political values and beliefs among young adults, only four can be classified as conservative,” argue CAP’s Halpin and Agne. That’s not surprising since “conservative” statements included:
• “We must do whatever is necessary to protect America from terrorism, even if it means restricting civil liberties or engaging in methods some might consider torture,” and
• “It is unpatriotic to criticize our government leaders or our military during a time of war.”
Not all conservatives agree with these statements, or would agree with such strict wording.
Halpin and Agne argue that on issues of culture young people “firmly reject most conservative ideas in this area.” The abortion and homosexuality statements were “Homosexuality is unnatural and should not be accepted by society” and “Human life begins at conception and must be protected from that point forward.”
Halpin and Agne also mark divided answers as favoring progressivism because a majority of the respondents did not choose conservative answers.
For example, youth were asked to agree or disagree with the assertion “Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs and abuse government beneﬁts.” No differentiation is provided for illegal immigrants versus legal immigrant workers. Halpin and Agne write, “Overall, they are evenly split on the conservative position…(42 percent agree, 16 percent neutral, 42 percent disagree), with intensity (17 percent strongly agree, 21 percent strongly disagree) once again favoring the opposition.”
They later assert that “Majorities of self-identified young conservatives and Republicans agree with all five progressive arguments on the role of government, four out of five progressive positions on economic and domestic policy, and three out of five progressive beliefs about international affairs and national security.”
However, Social Security, they argue, is an issue on which Millennials are more conservative than their predecessors: “those under 30 are much more likely to agree that we should reform Social Security to allow workers to invest some of their contributions in individual accounts.”
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.