Catherine Rampell at Economix has a post on Pew Research Report’s study (pdf) of generational divides in views towards government. She pulls out a number of interesting tidbits. The main finding is that,
Based on the 2009 survey data in this report, Millennials appear to be more pro-government, pro-regulation and pro-market-intervention than older generations
However, she rightly cautions that,
Some of this divide may be due to mere youth; perhaps people get more antigovernment, and more conservative, as they age…Disentangling the cohort effects from the life-cycle effects is difficult. Much of the survey data Pew has collected doesn’t go far back enough to determine whether earlier generations were equally pro-government and liberal in their own youth.
Nevertheless, some of the more specific questions have interesting ramifications.
While social “pendulum” theory might predict a swing towards government in this past year’s data, most of the numbers actually trend against government from 2007 to 2009.
Overall, I tend to take these differences with the grain of salt recommended in the “cohort” disclaimer. The gaps aren’t big enough to be explainable by much more than relative youth. It is curious though that numbers like the “safety net” question have trended downwards in the last year; mistrust of government is certainly rampant after the bailout, yet other polls seem to show most Americans believe strongly in unemployment insurance and the like. Perhaps this is a case like health care reform where the question is too general and the components of the entity in question are much more popular than the entity itself. Either way, the survey has a lot to dig into.