Why Millennials Don’t Follow the Liberal Narrative

April 12, 2017

By John Horvat II
The standard narrative about today’s millennials is that they are unpredictable. They are very fluid and undefined. Despite this changeability, most people automatically assume that millennials are predictably liberal.

The facts, however, tell a different story. Researchers who study the habits and attitudes of millennials do not support this forgone conclusion. Indeed, liberal-minded people are finding these unpredicted results to be unsettling.

To liberals, millennials are free to be unpredictable as long as they are not conservative. That is why they are irate when the find millennials holding positions they are not supposed to be holding. On some issues, they are actually more traditional than their parents.

What Do Millennials Think?

Millennials (born between 1982 and the early 2000s) hold a surprising set of views as they now finish high school, enter college and form families. According to sociologists Joanna Pepin of the University of Maryland and David Cotter of Union College, graduating seniors today are astonishingly more conservative than former classes.

Take for example the fact that only 42% of American high school seniors in 1994 agreed that the best kind of family was one in which the man was the outside bread earner and the woman took care of the home. In 2014, 58% held this opinion. The two sides have flipped in twenty short years.

Other surveys have confirmed these findings. A 2016 study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It collected data from three surveys that monitored the last three generations following about 10 million American adults from 1970 to 2015. The paper found that millennials are much more likely to identify themselves as conservative than members of Generation X or even the baby boomers when they were the same age. They are also more polarized.

Why Liberals Are Worried

Of course, many millennials still hold very liberal views. However, the fact that significant numbers, and even majorities, hold contrary views threatens the forward motion of social and sexual revolutionary movements. When movements lose their dynamism, they easily stagnate.

Many older liberals, who fought hard to push through their permissive reforms, are fearful that the millennials will ruin by their new views all the progress in the field of social equality gained since the sixties. The “gender” revolution, for example, is now stalled and looking for a jumpstart.

“If they persist with these attitudes,” says researcher Dan Cotter, “they are not likely to be pushing for organizational or societal changes in those family arrangements.”

Why Are Millennials Taking These Stands?

Researchers can only conjecture as to why millennials are not following the liberal narrative, especially regarding the family. According to the leftist progressive view of history, youth over time should be getting more liberal, not less.

One intriguing theory is that millennials are actually being consistent with what liberals preach but actually don’t practice. Researchers Pepin and Cotter attribute these attitudes to what is called “egalitarian essentialism,” a view that all views are equal including the traditional ones.

If liberalism is all about freedom, they reason, then as long as women are not prevented from choosing careers, there is nothing wrong with freely choosing traditional family roles. Liberals worry that such reasoning will revert back to limiting career choices for women. It again seems that millennials should be free to choose anything they want… as long as it is not traditional.

Not Enough Government Support

Predictably, other scholars claim the reason for a return to more traditional values can be blamed squarely on a lack of government support. Millennials would be more open to other career and family options if they were provided with affordable childcare and paid parental leave.

They claim that the lack of government programs forces millennials to resort to default solutions such as the traditional family. Massive government programs would provide the logistics for millennials to freely choose more liberal career options and promote gender equality. Such European-like welfare programs will also make Americans happy.

Such simplistic analysis tends to reduce the family to an economic entity in which parental care and other family matters can be delegated to government. It tends to make happiness depend upon material success. It fails to realize that the family is more than just an economic unit. It is also a rich cultural, social and religious unit upon which all society is based.

Stressed-out Families

One convincing explanation is that many millennials have watched their parents try to juggle two careers and saw how stressful it was. Others saw their families fall apart with divorce or single parenthood. When the family falls apart, a whole world unravels.

These millennials desire for their children the childhood they never had. Despite all the pressure to pursue options outside the family, it is no surprise that a traditional family is a real option that still draws the newer generations. It is the natural default position. Nature itself supports this ingenious union that provides for the education of children and the mutual affection of spouses.

It is also no surprise that it is the only option that radical liberals insist upon excluding. They know that healthy loving families will naturally give rise to more conservative and traditional values.

If these values take hold, the outcome, like millennials, will be unpredictable.

John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property.

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