Young Americans Leaning Left

Conservatives love to pull out the old saw that if you're not liberal when you're 20, you have no heart and if you're not conservative when you're 40, you have no brain--makes them feel superior, I suppose--so I imagine someone will use that as a way of discounting this piece in the NY Times showing that young people are leaning more left on social and political issues.

The news is largely good, if you're of a liberal mind like I am (even though I'm rapidly approaching 40).

Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

I looked up that Iraq question because I had a suspicion it wasn't any good, and I was right. It simply asks if the respondent "thinks we're likely to succeed in Iraq," which is vague at best. Succeed at getting control of their oil? Succeed at building a stable democracy? Succeed at getting out of the middle of a civil war? Too many possibilities, some of them contradictory, fall under the rubric of "succeed."

Most of the other questions are fairly straightforward, and they bode well for Democrats. Democrats are better liked by a majority of young voters, as are our candidates (at least, those they know about--Obama and Clinton), and they like our issues: universal health care, immigration, gay rights.

And they're taking the word "liberal" back--28% describe themselves as liberals, as opposed to 20% of the general population. I like that.

There are some down sides to the poll--choice isn't as strongly supported as I would hope, though again, there's some fluff in the question. The question asked was "Which of these comes closest to your view? Abortion should be generally available to those who want it, abortion should be available but under stricter limits then [sic] it is now, abortion should not be permitted?" It's completely possible to read that first option as "a woman should be allowed to abort a baby during delivery if she wants," and I suspect that's the sort of thing, given the recent debate over late-term abortion, that might skew the numbers that way. Even so, young people favored choice or choice with some restrictions 75-24. Only 24% of young people favored a complete ban on abortion, and that's a good thing in my book.

So feel free to pick through the poll--there's lots of good stuff in there.

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