More Young People Favor Socialism Than Are Libertarian

This blog will be guest-starring: MATH.

After getting bombarded with polls showing young people are supposedly overwhelmingly libertarian (both in the sense of social issues and private property) I felt I should do some research. For instance, a 2011 survey found that 49% of young people had a positive view of socialism and, as one blogger pointed out (but unfortunately I can’t find), more young people favor socialism than identify as Republicans.

So how does this compare to the supposed “libertarian streak” among millennials? Well the results are:

  • ¬†Young People Who Favor Socialism: 49%
  • Guesstimate of Young People Who Are Libertarian: 33.3%

These results are not insubstantial for millennials but, like others pointed out, is probably true given young people favoring many “big” government programs.

Here’s the part with all the wonky math you should read (but can skip if it hurts your eyes):

First, how many young people are libertarians? Unfortunately we only have very bad indirect evidence, according to a survey of libertarians, 62% of them are under the age of 50, and a total of 22% of Americans either lean or are consistently libertarian. Likewise, we know from the census that 20-29 year olds make up exactly 13.8% of the population.

The problem is the libertarian poll includes all under 50 year olds as “young” (even though 30-49 obviously is not young) and using these metrics if we inject all the 18-49 year olds into the 18-29 sample (or take 13.6 of 13.8), it comes out to the absurd figure that 99% of young people are libertarian (which is both methodologically bad and contradicted by other finds).

My answer? Let’s just do the opposite: see how many 18-49 year olds are libertarian and apply that figure for 18-29 year olds. It’s not exactly accurate but it’s best method we have so far. We know for instance that 13.6% of the population are libertarian 18-49 year olds and that, (again from the census) 40.9% of the US population are 18-49. which means that it makes a figure of 33.3% and we’ll guesstimate that this applies for 18-29 year olds.