New World Order – Are Millennials Giving Up On Democracy
Neil Howe , CONTRIBUTOR
Earlier this month, 31-year-old wunderkind Sebastian Kurz was elected as Austria’s new chancellor. Kurz—who ran on a populist, anti-immigration platform—is just the latest anti-establishment candidate worldwide to benefit from young people’s waning interest in liberal democracy, centrist candidates, and civic process.
Kurz’s victory points to an ongoing global youth insurgency that has boosted parties and candidates at the political extremes. In last year’s Austrian presidential elections, fully 42% of voters under age 30 checked the box for far-right candidate Norbert Hofer, a prelude to Kurz’s victory. In September, Germany’s AfD party got a push from younger voters and became the first far-right party in half a century to earn a spot in parliament. And although Emmanuel Macron scored a big victory for the French moderates earlier this year, he was the third choice among the country’s youngest voters, who preferred (on the first round) either the far-left Marxist Jean-Luc Mélenchon or the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen.
New World Order – Survey data show that Millennials are moving away from liberal democracy.
Further east, Japan’s Shinzo Abe, China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte all promote socially conservative, ethnically majoritarian, and country-first policies—and, in a reversal from earlier post-war decades, the biggest supporters of such leaders are the young, not the old.
Media commentators offer confusing accounts of this global Millennial trend. Sometimes they explain it as a move leftward (while pointing to Bernie Sanders in America or Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K.), and other times as a move rightward (while pointing at northern Europe or Asia). What unifies Millennials globally, however, is less conventional partisanship than a shift away from the liberal and democratic center. What’s more, their goal is unlike that of their own (Boomer and Xer) parents in their youth. They don’t want to trash the system and free the individual. They want to rebuild and strengthen the system so it can protect and care for the individual.
Millennial support for populist and authoritarian candidates conforms to several recent studies showing widespread youth disaffection with the whole idea of democracy. Only about 30% of Americans born in the 1980s think it’s “essential” to live in a democracy. That’s compared to 75% of Americans born in the 1930s. (Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and Britain reported similar gaps.) In another study of European Millennials, only 32% selected democracy as one of their top five most important social values.
And the share of young people who consider democracy a “bad” or “very bad” way to run the United States is growing, according to the World Values Survey.
New World Order – Millennials are increasingly open to non-democratic forms of government. In 2011, nearly half agreed that it would be a good idea to have “a strong leader” as opposed to “parliament and elections,” compared to less than 30% of Boomers and Silent. Similarly, 81% of Millennials think a military takeover would be justified if the government were failing, up from 57% among older Americans. Millennials are also far more likely than older Americans to view socialism favorably, according to Gallup and Pew Research Center.
To be sure, Millennials have joined older generations in distrusting government: Just 27% of U.S. 18- to 29-year-olds trust government to do what’s right “always/most of the time.” Yet the youth decline has been shallower than that of older generations. Today, in fact, Millennials report higher levels of trust, higher expectations for services, and less anger at the system than older generations. And what really sets Millennials apart is their expectation and optimism that big institutions can be made to work—even if this requires voting in a heavy-handed populist on the left or right.
Why are young people so disillusioned with liberal democracy?
Across Europe, high youth unemployment rates (ranging from 15% to 48%) and dismal economic prospects have convinced many that the system simply isn’t working, and that new blood is needed to upend the establishment. Fringe parties have taken hold most strongly among youth in countries who feel betrayed by the EU. American Millennials, meanwhile, are fed up with a government they see as gridlocked, corrupt, and unable to solve problems.