The young are natural Conservatives

Home Affairs IYoung people today have become used to an insecure world: global security events, economic shocks and pervasive uncertainty are all their ‘normal’. But what effect has this had on those young people? Are they pessimistic, worried, scared? No. Multiple pieces of research into the attitudes of Millennials (those aged 18-33) has found rising levels of optimism and a sense of opportunity, with this most marked in younger members of that cohort. Furthermore, this pattern is seen across the world.

The Millennial vision is of a world more competitive, less secure, but full of opportunity. They are not cowed. They are prepared to compete and adapt through unforeseen change and difficulties.

They sound like Conservatives to me.

Faith in the ability of governments to deliver social security is much diminished, leading to a rising sense of personal responsibility. Young people today think they will have to take more responsibility for their own lives than their parents ever did, and doubt the government will be able to provide things like pensions.

These youngsters trust businesses over governments in even greater numbers than their older relatives, and fully expect businesses to improve their lives. They are active consumers,  believing that the consumer pound is a greater agent of change than the electoral vote.

Businesses are felt to be more capable and better run than governments, opening the door for companies to serve needs previously felt to be government responsibility. This may be through active privatisation, but it is not difficult to imagine businesses serving people’s needs through their own entrepreneurial initiative, leading to building pressure for lower taxes.

Rapid change, austerity and incompetent governments have left this generation certain of nothing but themselves. Instead of demanding someone else take care of them, they are stepping up to the plate themselves. Government becomes the referee, ensuring fair play in the free market and protecting basic rights.

Millennials have faith that technological advances will improve their lives. Consider: ten years ago Twitter did not exist, but we are now talking about ‘wearables’ (such as Google Glass), ‘the internet of things’ (where everyday objects have a digital presence), and ‘Big Data’ (allowing for personalisation of services never considered before). What for the next ten or twenty years?

Further, Millennials value human contact and take a sharing and collaborative approach to problem solving. Social problems increasingly have social solutions. The internet, and the information and connectedness it brings, makes the sharing of ideas and resources much easier. Voluntary and empowering, not imposed from above.

The picture here is one of people trusting themselves, others and businesses over their governments. This is not a left-wing, big government vision. People do not trust governments in general, and they trust them even less to spend their hard earned cash responsibly. They do not think their governments are responsive to their needs, or adaptive to the changing world. This is true across the world, and particularly true in countries like the UK and USA.

These attitudes represent a massive opportunity for the Conservative Party.

But they create challenges too: these people are also overwhelmingly socially liberal. They support gay marriage, racial equality and more. We must support individual liberty and the freedom to be who you are without judgement. Communication is also an issue. We must explain why our values around the role of the state, and the importance of economic freedom and personal responsibility match theirs.

Too often the Tory Party is seen as old fashioned, elitist and callous. Ours should be a positive message to match the optimistic fighting spirit of the young.


Viacom International Media Networks – Global survey of 15-24 year olds

Pew Research – US study of Millennials

Market Leader Q2 2014 (paywalled)

Admap April 2014 (paywalled)

Edelman Trust Barometer – Global study

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