During the month of June 2007, a nationwide telephone poll of Americans between the ages of 17 and 29 was conducted by the New York Times, CBS News and MTV. The poll’s unsurprising conclusion is that young Americans are “leaning left.” Also in June, a special report released by two liberal groups (“Media Matters for America” and “Campaign for America’s Future”) declared that the majority of Americans hold “progressive” positions on a broad range of issues. The report concluded that independent, nonpartisan polling data from the last 20 years debunk the conventional wisdom that most Americans agree with a conservative agenda.
As might be expected, both sets of data have strong political implications. The “leaning left” poll indicates that young Americans prefer liberal politicians and policies to those on the conservative side, and that they therefore have a more positive view of Democrats than of Republicans. The Media Matters report also gives statistics—in such areas as the role of government, the economy, immigration and health care—that show the majority favoring progressive policies over conservative ones.
In addition, the results of these polls carry moral implications. According to the first poll, nearly half of those interviewed say that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry. Support for the legalization of marijuana possession and acceptance of a president who has used marijuana are also strong. The Media Matters figures mirror this finding.
Polls don’t generally reveal the reasons behind their findings, but surely they are useful in leading us to some meaningful conclusions. Why are young Americans leaning the opposite direction from what has been perceived as the national trend? One reason might be a reaction to what Media Matters claims is conventional wisdom: that the United States is becoming more and more conservative. The poll of young Americans reveals a shared bleak view regarding their own future and where the country as a whole is heading: it claims that 70 percent feel the country is on the wrong track. If these young people are told by the media that the country is becoming more conservative, and at the same time they don’t like what they see, then it is only natural that they should look for alternatives.
Morally, a similar situation may be in play. A younger generation is quick to pick up on hypocrisy. If they have been told that certain values and standards are the ones they should live by, yet they do not see an older generation living by them, then they will be open to other values. Similarly, if they do not see a positive result from living those values, they will seek something different.
Another factor is the mental conditioning of young minds. Today’s young people are subjected to enormous amounts of psychological conditioning, and polls such as these only endorse that impact. The idea of political correctness has been imbedded in our institutions of higher learning for many decades. Young minds have been taught to question and reject morality based on values with any absolute substance. What is taught in the classrooms eventually finds its way into the political and moral fiber of our society. What is depicted as acceptable on television and in movies eventually becomes the politically correct stance everyone is expected to embrace.
Polls and surveys such as the two cited here serve to provide an indication of where society is headed as young Americans mature and begin to hold positions of influence. Would it not be pertinent to suggest that we look closely at the values held by all generations? If the values of an older generation are failing (and the statistics say they are), then our population will turn to “progressive” values in search of a solution. But if they still have a bleak view of the future, as they say they do, then perhaps we need to look deeper.
Why have old values failed to inspire a younger generation? A simple answer would be the observable fruit of such values. As we witness divorce rates, corporate greed, self-serving political leaders, violence, and hatred at all levels of society, the next generation is going to question the values that have produced these results. But whenever the political winds blew to the left in times past, people were no more convinced—at least, not for long—that the nation was on the right track.
It is ever so natural that the pendulum will swing: if it has been right, it will go left. And after a period of time, when the left-leaning fails to produce peace and happiness, then the pendulum will swing again. History documents such never-ending swings.
What is needed is a consistent set of values that work—values that will produce the results everyone desires. America claims a Judeo-Christian and, by extension, a biblical foundation, yet the nation is mired in politics and politically motivated agendas. The values found in the Bible are neither “progressive” nor “conservative” in any political sense; they rise above politics. Until we are prepared to look at them and try them on that basis, the pendulum will continue to swing.