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Millennial Surprise

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 thethreesurveys, 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 The Daily Dish

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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