Millennials Not Becoming Conservative with Age

One major take-away from Australia’s elections in 2022 was that Millennials (and the first few years of Gen Z voters) are creating major issues for the LNP. Now, new data analysis from the prolific John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times shows this generational political tendency is also observable in the US and UK.

As you can see below, each prior generation has become more likely to vote Conservative/Republican as they age. Millennials, by contrast, have trended in the opposite direction.

The trend is probably too dramatic to be accounted for by any single explanation. The inaction and downright obstruction of climate change and environmental regulation by these parties obviously play a major part. 

But a second element relates to the aphorism, “You can’t be conservative until you have something to conserve.” 

The most thorough data on this comes from the US Pew Research Center. In terms of net wealth, millennials have less than either Baby Boomers or Gen X did at the same age: a median of $12,500 compared with $15,100 for Gen X and $20,700 for Boomers (all amounts adjusted for inflation). 

The report authors attribute this to much more debt in the economy now than for previous generations. 

In terms of income, the major difference lies with Millennials without a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median salary for a Millennial high-school graduate is $49,363, compared with $55,461 for Gen X and $52,656 for Baby Boomers.

Millennials with tertiary education less than a bachelor’s degree make $62,358. For Gen X the figure was $69,390 and for Boomers $63,460. 

Things are better for Millennials with a degree. Millennials with a bachelor’s degree make $105,343 versus $109,752 for Gen X and $87,867 for Boomers. The push for Millennials to get a bachelor’s degree or more obviously accounts for a good part of the generation’s indebtedness and thus lower net wealth.

The economic situation surely also feeds into the fact that Millennials are more than twice as likely to live with parents than previous generations were. They’re also less likely to have started a family.

Ironically, it may require a generation of progressive policies before Millennials are well-off enough to revert to the norm and start voting conservative.

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