I spent this past weekend with more than 300 college students from more than 200 universities spread across all 50 states. They’d sacrificed five days of summer break to travel to Washington, DC on their own dime to sit in a classroom for nearly 12 hours a day, taking endless notes.
Why? Because they’re really into liberty.
The event was the sixth annual Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Convention. As a YAL employee, I’ve attended each and every convention we’ve held since the first one in 2009, and it’s given me a unique and inspiring inside look at the youth movement for liberty.
From that experience—plus years of broader involvement in college activism and polling data which supports the following observations—here are 3 things you need to know about young people and liberty in America today.
As the poll showed, two-thirds of young Americans (ages 18 to 29) think the government is wasteful and inefficient. Nearly as many (63%) understand that government regulations favor special interests, not the general public. Strong majorities favor cutting government spending, regulations, taxes, and overall size.
Millennials are also uniquely pro-liberty on social issues like marriage and the drug war, with a majority agreeing that the government shouldn’t dictate what we eat, smoke, or drink. They are also very suspicious of both major parties, with more than half identifying as political independents.
All of this is fantastic news—and it’s not just this one poll which shows the promise of the Millennial generation. Another recent survey from Pew Forum received a lot of attention because it categorized Americans into eight cross-partisan political typologies.
None of them are explicitly called “libertarian,” but the two that have the strongest representation of young people? Well, they sound pretty libertarian to me (or at least close enough to be persuaded in that direction): The “Young Outsiders” and “Next Generation Left” both want government to get out of our personal lives, and while the first group is definitely fiscally conservative, even the latter category understands far more than many older left-wingers that DC can’t keep spending like we have unlimited free money.