It was once always considered a truism that the young are left wing and the older you get, the more right wing you become. This is always thought to be down to the fact younger people being more accepting of change and a challenge to the status quo. Yet this fact may no longer be the case.
Recent research shows that younger people have moved more to the political right. Young people are more accepting of smaller government and less taxes than the older generations. Generation Boris, an article published by The Economist in 2013 shows that younger people are more individualistic than older generations. They are particularly interested in deficit reduction and less welfare provision for the poorest in society. The younger population are more likely to support less government provision of programs and are more entrepreneurial than previous generations. It is not just The Economist that suggests a fundamental change in younger people. The Guardian and the BBC have also published articles on this trend as well.
What has caused this trend? Does this mean the death of the Labour Party? Should the Tories celebrate? Is the trend permanent? There are various causes for this trend. Firstly, young people are more likely to go to university than previous generations, The Economist identifies this with high amounts of liberalism. Yet wider trends such as the dominance of neoliberalism – the ideology promoting free trade, smaller government and lower regulation – has been a contributing factor. Younger people have existed in a time when socialism is dead and exist in a time when Lib/Lab/Con means all the same thing. The technology revolution also means that there has been more individualism in society.
Everyone is an individual, and society is effectively dead.
Does this mean that young people are Tories but they just don’t know it? The answer: NO. They believe in entrepreneurship but they also believe in the EU; a 2013 Independent article Young People want to stay in the EU suggests that younger people are far more likely to support the EU than the older generations. Younger people are economically right, they believe in tax cuts and in welfare cuts but socially left, and support gay marriage and like multiethnic society. Young people prefer deficit reduction to tax rises but are also less opposed to immigration than older generations. It seems that both Tory and Labour eyebrows are raised. Neither side really can win these voters. Most likely Labour will have to adopt more New Labour police. Meanwhile a war will begin within the Tory camp about what policies they would adopt. Past General Elections have suggested younger people are less likely to vote, so they may have little or no effect on policy making.
Is this trend permanent? The answer is also probably no. Bear in mind whilst younger people may be relatively right wing now, there is guarantee that they will be eternal right wingers. Various trends may pop the liberal balloon. Firstly, according to a 2014 article by the Huffington Post 47% of jobs may be done by computers or robots by 2034. This means that people’s perceptions in life would change; less jobs would mean less support for the current system. Secondly, inequality is also likely to grow in the next 20 years eroding the belief that people have a fair shot in society. Thirdly, today’s babies are tomorrow’s youth and with economic realities that mean they won’t have the opportunities we have may push them well to the left.
As with everything in life, there are no certainties.