IBJNews

Financial crisis pushes millennials to fiscal conservatism

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

This generation of young Americans has been called many things, from civic-minded to "entitled." But fiscally conservative?

That's a new one, and it just might have an impact on the presidential election.

Listen to Caroline Winsett, a senior at DePaul University, who considers herself fairly socially liberal but says being fiscally conservative matters most right now.

"Ultimately, I'm voting with my pocketbook," says Winsett, a 22-year-old political science major who's president of the DePaul student body. She recently cast an absentee ballot for Republican Mitt Romney in her home state of Tennessee.

To be clear, polls show that President Barack Obama remains the favorite among 18- to 29-year-old registered voters, as he was in 2008. No one thinks the majority of young voters will support Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, in the Nov. 6 election.

But the polls also hint at a "schism" between those who weren't old enough to vote in 2008 and their older twentysomething counterparts, says John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

In one poll, for instance, he found that 42 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds identified as "conservative," compared with just over one-third who said they were "liberal." By comparison, those proportions were nearly flipped for 22- to 24-year-olds: 39 percent said they were "liberal," and a third called themselves "conservative." It was much the same for older twentysomethings.

Tina Wells, head of Buzz Marketing, an agency that tracks the attitudes of young people, has noticed this shift to the right. Her own researchers have found that the youngest adults are much more likely to label themselves "conservative," ''moderate" or "independent" than older millennials, a term for young adults who've entered adulthood in the new millennium.

Like a lot of youth experts, Wells thinks it has to do with one thing: the economy.

Suddenly, she says, the "entitled generation," those who grew up in more prosperous times and were seen as having ridiculously high expectations for jobs and standard of living, was no more.

"That bubble burst the minute the economy started tanking, and they were the 'unemployed generation,'" Wells says. "They had to grow up."

She says the recession had a particularly profound effect on the political attitudes of younger millennials, who've come of age as the adults who preceded them have lost homes, jobs and retirement funds. It has set a decidedly grimmer tone as their age group also has faced the highest unemployment rate of any age bracket, while many others have had to take jobs below their qualifications.

"We heard about how our parents' bank accounts were shrinking and how money that was there one day was gone the next," says Jessie Wurzer, a 17-year-old in Fairport, N.Y.

She says it's left her and her peers "with a lingering anxiety about money and finances in general."

They worry about how they'll afford college, whether Social Security will be there when they're ready to retire and how the national deficit will affect them. That's why Wurzer now calls herself a "fiscal conservative."

At the same time, however, she considers herself a moderate on social issues, including gay marriage and abortion. So in traditional political terms, this generation is hard to peg.

Unemployment is now the top concern among young people, says Deborah Maue, vice president at TRU, a Chicago-based research company that specializes in tweens, teens and young adults. Just after the 2008 election, unemployment ranked fifth, behind such issues as education and health care.

But, Maue says, this is a generation that's also passionately "hands off" on social issues. TRU's research also has found that teens are increasingly uninterested in organized religion.

"They're all about individuality and accepting people as individuals," says Maue, who leads the TRU Enrollment Insights Program for higher education professionals.

For some young people, an interest in individual freedom has sent them to the Libertarian party. Rachel Palermo, a 19-year-old in Northfield, Minn., is one of them.

"Our loss of trust may be why we have the mentality that the economy would be best with less intervention" says Palermo, a sophomore at St. Olaf College. She plans to vote for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.

"Even though politician after politician promises they'll improve the economy, they have failed, and we are going to suffer from it."

ADVERTISEMENT

  • No wasted votes
    No Mark, a vote for Gary Johnson is just a vote for Gary Johnson. Stop trying to scare people into not voting their consciences.
    • Hope
      Wow, it sounds like there is hope after all, and not the faux hope we were sold in 2008. Good for our youth. Please note however that a vote for Gary Johnson or Ron Paul et al is a vote for Obama. Period. Trust me , I would like to make the same vote.

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

    2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

    3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

    4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

    5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

    ADVERTISEMENT