Maybe Government Isn’t So Bad After All

Ruy Teixeira shows that Americans, and young Americans in particular, believe that the government should do more to solve problems.

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One of the more interesting results from the 2008 national exit poll—and one that hasn’t gotten wide enough circulation—is that Americans now believe government should be doing more to solve problems. This is in contrast to believing that government is doing too many things best left to businesses and individuals. By an 8-point margin, 51-43, voters endorsed more government involvement on election day.

Even more interesting is how young voters aged 18 to 29 felt about government. By an overwhelming 69-27 margin, these voters said government should be doing more to solve problems.

Chart One

The data on young voters is even more significant in a generational context. The Millennial generation—those born from 1978 to 1996 or 2000, depending on definition—express progressive attitudes about everything from social issues to foreign policy to the economy and the role of government.

As more of this generation becomes eligible to vote and today’s Millennials age into higher turnout years, the Millennials’ influence on the electorate will grow sharply until at least 2016. There were about 48 million eligible Millennial voters in 2008, a figure that will rise to 64 million in 2012 and 81 million in 2016.

Chart Two

A problem-solving government is not only a good idea; it might even be a hip one.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

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