(CNSNews.com) - The current generation of young voters is promising to be the most liberal generation of Americans in decades, according to a study released Thursday by a liberal group. An organization for young conservatives challenged the claim.
"Millennials" -- Americans born between 1978 and 1996 -- "are civic-minded, politically engaged and hold values long associated with progressives, such as concern about economic inequalities, desire for a more multilateral foreign policy and a strong belief in government," said the report compiled by the New Politics Institute (NPI), an arm of the New Democrat Network.
The survey studied existing polling data, comparing millennials with previous generations and finding them to be more liberal than their predecessors.
As the youth generation in 1991, a majority of Generation Xers identified with the Republican Party, according to Pew data. By 2006, however, identification with Republicans dropped 20 percentage points among the young generation, while identification with Democrats rose from 33 percent in 1991 to 49 percent in 2006.
A 1988 Pew Values survey found that 18- to 25-year-olds were evenly split on the necessity of having an inefficient and wasteful government. A follow-up survey in 2003 found that 18- to 35-year-olds favored an efficient, hard-working government by 31 percentage points.
While it is common for young people to be more liberal than their parents and to become more conservative as they age, the authors of the report said there is something different about millennials that makes the authors hopeful millennials will remain dedicated "progressives."
"As far as we can tell ... there are a lot of things about this generation that do look like they're going to stick," NPI fellow and co-author of the study, Ruy Teixeira, said at a discussion in Washington, D.C., Thursday.
"Some of the most politically salient things we know do tend to stick, like your party [identification] and your tendency to vote for one party over the other," Teixeira said. "I mean, there's some change over the life cycle, but those identifications that are formed at an early age ... do tend to stick with you."
Election Day turnout has been rising among young people in recent years, jumping 11 percent to a total of 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, between the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004.
In the 2006 midterm election, 25.5 percent of eligible voters under 30 cast a ballot, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement.
Peter Leyden, director of NPI, said the study shows that the current young generation is "much more politically active than other young people" have been and that they hold "very progressive values," including concern for the environment over economic growth, support for same-sex "marriage" and the desire for government to do more problem-solving.
"If you're a Democrat, this is a good thing," Leyden said. Liberal candidates must find successful ways to reach out to young voters and convince them of the importance of actually casting a ballot, he added.
Jason Mattera, a spokesman for the conservative Young America's Foundation, said he agreed that young people currently in high school and college are more politically active, because there are more opportunities to be heard through outlets like social networking websites.
But he disagreed with the findings that millennials are overwhelmingly liberal. "There is no massive movement to the left," he said. "That's complete nonsense."
Mattera said Young America's Foundation, which supports conservative students in high schools and colleges with funding and speakers, has seen a growth in the conservative movement in recent years.
"We see with the big names in the conservative movement -- Ann Coulter, John Ashcroft, Dinesh D'Souza -- we have always standing room only, thousands of students who want to go hear these speakers, because there's a thirst for conservative views that are seldom taught in the classroom and seldom heard by young people," he said.
"When it comes to abortion and being pro-Second Amendment, lower taxes, I mean those are issues that young people really do care about in the conservative favor," Mattera said.
He conceded that young people are probably more liberal when it comes to "radical environmentalism and believing global warming hysteria."
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