Millennial Surprise

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By Daniel Larison

Over the course of the last few months, Rasmussen has been tracking attitudes about voting for a black candidate for President.  What they have been finding is that the public is gradually becoming more willing to support such a candidate, but what is most striking in the three surveys they have done is how constant and relatively great the unwillingness to support a black candidate has been in the age group you probably least expect.  According to the three surveys, 18-29 year olds are now relatively less willing to support a black candidate than voters from other age groups.  While resistance to supporting a black candidate has dropped in every other age group since February, and overall stands at just 8%, it remains basically unchanged among the youngest voters. 

While older generations report slightly increased unwillingness among friends, family and co-workers (which is the pollster's way of trying to get around respondents who self-censor), approximately one-fifth (22%) of 18-29 year olds state their own unwillingness to vote for a black presidential candidate.  When asked about the willingness of friends, family and co-workers, the figure for "no" rises to 31%, which is the largest percentage in any age group.  Older voters will tend to say they are less sure about the attitudes of friends and family, but there is evidence of more explicit resistance among 18-29 year olds in both responses.   

Of course, roughly three-quarters of this group say that they are willing, and it is among these young voters that Obama has drawn many of his most enthusiastic supporters.  Even so, what we seem to be seeing is that unwillingness to support a black candidate is actually much stronger and more enduring among young voters, who are much more likely now to say this openly.  This would seem to undermine conventional narratives that Millennials are less concerned about matters of race than their elders, and it may be that the greater diversity of Millennials is a cause of this.

Cross-posted at Eunomia

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