If Young People Don’t Like Government, Why Do They Keep Voting For More Of It?

Harvard’s Institute of Politics released a poll yesterday that showed millennials’ trust in government at a historic low. This chart shows how many respondents said that they trust the entity in question to do the right thing either all of the time or most of the time. Notably, 20% of millennials said they trust the federal government to do the right thing; 32% said they trust the president; and 14% trust Congress. State and local governments (and, appallingly, the United Nations) fared a little better, but distrust of government is clearly the order of the day. Click to enlarge:

trust-box-chart

Which raises, not for the first time, a question I can’t answer: why do people who don’t trust government keep voting for more of it? For a long time, young people have voted mostly Democrat. Which means they are voting to give more of their money, and more control over their lives, to government–especially the federal government. Why would they do that, if only 20% of them trust the federal government to do the right thing?

One would think that this represents an opportunity for Republicans to capture more of the youth vote. If you don’t trust government, don’t vote for the party of more government power. How hard is that to figure out? Yet, unless I am mistaken, the last Republican presidential candidate to really excite youth and dominate that demographic was Ronald Reagan. Why we can’t carry the youth vote more often is, in my view, one of the mysteries of American politics.

Responses