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When small groups of older liberals discuss the problems presented by the Tea Party movement, the millennial generation is often cited as the answer: old white conservatives will die off and young liberal millennials will take their place.  Millennials are friendlier than other generations towards gay people having the same civil rights as everyone else.  They are connected by social media, more disconnected from established political and religious institutions, and optimistic about the future.  Although they are more likely to be political independents, they have been more likely to vote for Democratic Party candidates in the last two elections, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. This cohort, aged 18 to 33, is more racially diverse than all previous generations, and only 57% consider themselves white people. (Of those being born today, less than half are white.) 

Knowing that the whites of Woodstock Nation generation had aged into a decidedly more conservative cohort, I distrust generational and demographic answers to tough political quandaries. So I looked deeper into the Pew Research data to find the rest of the story, and one of the things I found was sharp differences between white millennials and people of color. 

Pew Research used the term “non-white,” rather than people of color.  And they rarely broke that group up into African American, Latino, Asian-American or Native Indian.  So in this article, I have replicated their language, since it is their data, although I would not ordinarily use the term “non-white” myself.

On the question of supporting same-sex marriage, white millennials at 70% are just three points more favorable than non-white millennials at 67%.   When asked about citizenship for undocumented immigrant, however, only 53% of white millennials favor it to 58% of non-white millennials.  That is a five point difference, although a clear majority of both strata would support citizenship-friendly legislation.

Differences were bigger when asked about government and health care.  When Pew asked white respondents whether they favored a bigger government, only 39% said yes.  Non-whites, on the other hand, 71% said yes.  That thirty-two point spread signals a huge difference of opinion.  Similarly, 54% of white millennials, more than half, said no, it is not the government’s responsibility to provide health care.  By contrast, 68% of non-white millennials said it was the government’s responsibility, with only 32% said no.  Again, this is a spread of twenty-two points.

Health Care and Millennials

When white millennials were asked about their partisan allegiances, 51% described themselves as political independents.  Of the rest, more were Republican, 24%, than those who were Democratic, 19%. Slightly fewer non-whites millennials were independent, 47%, but 37% claimed to be Democratic and only 9% said they were Republicans. 

These partisan views were reflected in attitudes toward President Obama.  Of white millennials, only 34% approved of the job he was doing as president.  Twice as many non-whites, 67%, said he was doing a good job.  Similarly, 60% of all voters less than 30 years of age voted for President Obama in 2012, but only 44% of whites in this age group did so.  By sharp contrast, 91% of black voters from this age group supported the president’s re-election.

When just millennial Republican Party members as well as those who lean towards the Republicans were asked about the Tea Party movement, a full 36% said they supported it, and only 9% said they disagreed with it.  Most, 54% has no opinion on this topic. 

According to , there are 80 million millennials in the USA. About 60% of them consider themselves white, 48,000,000.  Using the percentages cited above: over four million (4,000,000+) support the Tea Party movement.  That is nothing for anti-racists to sneeze at.  It suggests that a considerable problem awaits us in the near term, a problem that is likely to grow worse with age.

Simply put, the millennials do not solve anything for us, even if demography is destiny—which it is not.  Please pay attention: these numbers are an indication of some of the organizing and educational work ahead.

Leonard Zeskind

Author Leonard Zeskind

is founder of IREHR. For almost four decades, he has been a leading authority on white nationalist political and social movements. He is the author of Blood and Politics: The History of White Nationalism from the Margins to the Mainstream, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux in May 2009. [more..]

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