Are Millennials politically that different from everyone else?
Welcome to this week’s edition which takes a look at centre-right think tank Onward’s new report into the politics of Millennials.
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How different are the politics of millennials from everyone else?
One day, in a glorious future where The Week in Polls has its own offices, merchandise and 24-hour rolling TV channel under the tag line ‘Real Polls. Real Honest Opinion’,1 every staff meeting will begin with a coordinated chant of “Actually, I think you’ll find it’s a bit more boring than that”.2
Because that’s the reality with so much political polling. No, a two point share increase isn’t a surge. No, a flat-lining poll rating isn’t an upward trajectory. There’s less drama and more consistency in the polls that the headlines and op-ed writers claim, and the different segments of the public are usually politically more similar than you think.
That regular refrain of how things are a bit more boring than they’re being made out to be is, perhaps, somewhat self-defeating editorially, but it’s the truth - and I know you’re smart enough to like the boring. We know that boring can be interesting, right?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Onwards’s new Missing Millennials report. It’s got much to commend it, being heavily rooted in a sage mix of polling and focus groups. And yet… there’s another story in the data that isn’t the one the report pulls out.
The report’s tone is set by the Executive Summary’s opening:
British Millennials are a politically unique generation.
Leaving aside the quibble about whether or not every generation is unique anyway, the point we’re meant to take away is that there’s something special and different about this one.
Actually, I think you’ll find it’s a bit more boring than that.
Let’s start with the generation’s views of Labour and the Conservatives:
There are certainly some difference between Millennials and the national averages. But not really that much. Especially where you remember there’s a margin of error around each data point in those charts.
Aside from overall Millennials being a bit more warmly disposed to Labour, it’s hard to spot generational differences. Neither are the gaps between the Millennial and national average figures that large (with even the very largest gap still under 10 percentage points) nor does the ordering of answers from most to least popular vary much (for both parties, the top three answers are the same for Millennials and for people overall, for example).
Or look at policy priorities:
Again, there is some variation here but also an awful lot of consistency. Three of the top five issues for Millennials overlap with three of the top five for everyone, and across the 13 plotted, only three have significantly different rankings for Millennials compared with everyone.
It’s a similar picture again with individual policy preferences:
Of the 10 top issues for Millennials, seven are in the overall population’s top 10 with an eighth in at number 11.
The two biggest differences are both over policies to help parents. It’s about as boringly predictable as possible that a generation which includes more parents of young children rates policies related to young children more highly than the overall population. (And that’s not a finding that’s special to Millennials, to Britain or to the 21st century. It’s about being a parent with kids.)3
What’s more, in the main area where Millennials do vary from others, it’s not about being Millennial itself.
It’s true that there are big political differences across the generations when it comes to support for Labour and the Conservatives, and on associated political values. But this is consistent pattern across all ages. There’s no Millennial generation outlier in graphs such as this:
Every generation is contributing to that trend. In that sense, Millennials are again pretty much the same as everyone else.
Which is why I think the most interesting and relevant conclusion to draw from the report is about a mystery.
Because although some many different angles on public opinion show Millennial opinion to be pretty much the same as that of other generations, and when it differs to differ either as part of a consistent cross-generational trend or to differ in respect of the obvious, life-changing, dominating, nappy-filled demographic difference, there is one difference left:
Previous generations have got more conservative, and more Conservative, as they’ve got older. But this one may not be following that track.
Now that is interesting. So interesting I’ve written a previous edition about it already.
Otherwise, what the data on millennials tells us is not one of difference but of similarity. It’s not a story of exciting differences. It’s a bit more boring than that.
National voting intention polls
For all that there was a bit of a recovery in the Conservative Party’s standings from the lowest of Liz Truss lows, the party is still stuck at being mostly in the twenties, occasionally peaking into the low thirties, and with little sign of sustained growth beyond that.
Here are the latest figures from each currently active pollster:
Last week’s edition
Know other people interested in political polling?
Suella Braverman’s ratings, and other insights from this week’s polling…
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