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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Generation Y and American Politics

If you haven’t already encountered it, I urge you to take a look at a new study about the values and politics of Generation Y, which may be loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 2000 (though the report really only covers only the adult members of this generation, those currently 18-25 years of age). The report, with the somewhat gimmicky title of “OMG: How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era“, was written by Anna Greenberg and is based on a large-scale survey with oversamples among Jews, blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Muslims, as well as supplementary analyses of Census and other data, all conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
Much of the report focuses on the detailed religious and civic attitudes of Gen Y adults and I won’t go into those findings here–read the instructive report to get the full picture. But there are some broader findings in the report that are worth highlighting.
Generation Y is extraordinarily diverse in a race-ethnic sense. Only 61 percent of Geb Y adults are white; 15 percent are black, 4 percent are Asian and 17 percent are Hispanic.
Generation Y is more secular and less Christian. Almost a quarter (23 percent) have no religious preference or are agnostic/atheist, 4 percent are Jewish or Muslim and another 7 percent are other non-Christian; only 62 percent identify themselves with some Christian faith.
Gen Y is at the leading edge of what Chris Bowers has pointed out is an extremely fast-growing demographic: the non-Christian coalition. Between 1990 and 2001, according to CUNY’s American Religious Identification Survey, non-Christians grew by 84 percent (from 20 to 37 million adults), including an astonishing increase of 106 percent (from 14 to 29 million) among seculars.
Generation Y is very liberal on social issues. A majority (53 percent) flat-out support allowing gay marriage. And 63 percent say women shoudl have the legal right to choose an abortion.
Generation Y is unusually liberal in an ideological sense. More Gen Y adults say they are liberal (31 percent) than say they are conservative (30 percent).
Generation Y leans strongly Democratic. Gen Y adults give Democrats an 11 point edge on party ID (39-28).
Of course, there’s no guarantee Gen Y adults will stay as Democratic and liberal as they are now–change is possible (but much less likely after the age of 30 which is not so far away for the leading edge of this generation).
But they’re off to a good start! If Gen Y is the future of American politics, their relatively diverse, secular, liberal and Democratic character can only make those on the center-left smile. And the conservative Establishment in Washington scowl.