The Republican candidates for South Dakota's U.S. Senate seat debated on South Dakota Public TV last night. Click on SDPB 's archived video, and you can watch Stace Nelson, Mike Rounds, Larry Rhoden, and Jason Ravnsborg all spending 90 minutes saying that government is bad! We need less government!... except when we want more government for military spending, veterans' health care, crop insurance, livestock disaster relief....
With their slogan-policy schizophrenia, perhaps our GOP candidates are simply struggling to realign themselves with the worldview of younger voters. A new survey (yes, by a Democratic polling firm; add the grains of salt you deem necessary) of 2,000 Americans age 18 to 33 finds 72% of these "Millennials" support greater government involvement.
Results of Harstad Strategic Research survey of 2,000 Americans age 18 to 33, March-April 2014; graphic by Governing
On every major issue—college costs, welfare, civil rights, health care—the youngest voting bloc says greater government involvement is fine. This result seems to challenge Cody Hausman's assessment that his generation is deeply suspicious of government. The survey may support Ryan Casey's thesis that Millennials are civic problem solvers who won't let political ideals or slogans stop them from using government to get things done.
The Millennials' values will jar Republicans as much as their policy preferences. HSR asked respondents to identify their two most important values. The most popular choices? Equality and opportunity (hey! Cody Hausman was right about equality!). The least important values: patriotism and competition (curse all that cooperative learning in school, right, Sibby?).
But the He-Man Government-Haters Club on parade at last night's debate need not sweat too much. Millennials can answer all the surveys they want, but they aren't showing up to vote yet:
The survey also reported a one cause for concern: They’ll be a sharp drop in Millennial turnout this November, with only 28 percent reporting they’ll definitely vote in the midterm elections. For the 2016 presidential election, 55 percent said they definitely planned to vote.
A separate poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics published a few weeks ago found conservative Millennials are more enthusiastic about voting in November [Mike Maciag, "How to Appeal to Millennial Voters," Governing, 2014.05.16].
Rick Weiland doesn't need to win the message war with the youth. He needs to put absentee ballots in their hands and get them to vote on their values.
Bonus Rick Booster: HSR finds that 71% of young respondents believe "The system is rigged in favor of the rich."