They think people should be responsible for helping themselves and government should step back, object to foreign intervention, demand adherence to immigration laws, are relatively bullish on President Trump, don’t think fondly of former President Obama, and are highly critical of both major political parties. These are just a few of the attributes that set young New Englanders apart from their peers and explain their determinedly independent political views. Our survey of a representative sample of young Americans between 13 and 23-years-old draws a stark contrast between political ideologies on the East and West coasts, and indicates that New England in particular may be rekindling a nearly-extinct form of Republicanism. This form of Yankee republic-loving independence has declined drastically in recent decades as the Republican Party has embraced increasingly conservative stances on social issues and codified a base around hawkish peacekeeping. According to the Pew Research Center, the combined delegations of six New England states went from 15 Democrats and 10 Republicans in 1973-74 to 20 Democrats and two Republicans in 2011-2012.
However, a growing body of research indicates the youngest Americans – Generation Z – hold views much more in line with their moderate Generation X parents than with Millennials or even Boomers. This age group supports an independent, America-First Republicanism that is particularly popular in New England and embraces the principles of self-determination, non-interventionism abroad and the strict enforcement of immigration laws at home. Our survey explores a variety of political views by region, including views of President Trump, Former President Obama, and views on government, and the findings hint at a distinctly independent identity open to common sense right-of-center policies.
Young New Englanders Reject Big Government, and Want Americans to Help Themselves
While varying levels of social welfare and populism are popular in both parties, young New Englanders espouse the most classically liberal views of any region in the United States. We asked young people to indicate their preference for either of the following statements:
Statement 1: As we address our nation’s problems, we should think about what government can do to help the people.
Statement 2: As we address our nation’s problems, we should think about what people can do to help themselves.
A full 57% of young New Englanders prefer the second statement supporting people helping themselves, the highest share by region to express this preference. Just 34% of New Englanders prefer the first statement. Below is the share of agreement for the second statement by region.
Young New Englanders are Critical of Both Parties, and Determinedly Independent
Although young New Englanders hold some of the most consistently conservative views on immigration and foreign policy, they are one of the most reluctant groups to identify as Republican or Democrat. Just 14% of New Englanders identify as Republican, and 32% identify as Democrat, and a full 43% identify as Independent. Out of the eight geographic regions surveyed, New Englanders tie with the Pacific for their share of Independent voters, as shown below.
Although the majority of New Englanders do not identify as either Republican or Democrat, 36% approve of the Republican Party, and 50% approve of the Democratic Party.
Trump Approval in Blue East Coast States Significantly Higher than Blue West Coast States
We asked respondents to indicate their approval or disapproval for a series of public figures and groups, including President Trump, President Barack Obama, and the DNC and RNC. While Trump’s approval nationwide clocks in at 30% among 13 to 23-year-olds, there are significant regional deviations. The President’s approval is highest in Republican strongholds in the East South Central region (Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama), and stands at 40% for the region. His approval is lowest in the Pacific states (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii), and stands at 19% for the region. Below is a chart of Trump’s approval by region.
Despite Democrat-heavy legislatures and a reputation for liberalism, young East Coasters hold an approval rate of the President closer to that of Southerners than to that of West Coasters.
Trump’s approval rate in the Middle Atlantic region (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), sits at 35%, giving him an approval rate 46% higher in the Middle Atlantic than in the Pacific region, as shown below.
Trump’s approval rate in New England (New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut), clocks in at 30%, giving him an approval rate 37% higher in New England than in the Pacific states as shown below.
The President’s approval in New England is also 10% higher than in majority-Red mountain regions (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico), and 13% higher than the East North Central region (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio).
Obama Disapproval in New England Second Lowest in The Nation
Although former President Obama holds an approval rating among 13 to 23-year-olds of 72%, this varies significantly by region and race. Obama’s approval is highest in the Middle Atlantic region (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) at 75% and lowest in the East South Central region (Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama) at 62%. His approval rate among young Whites is 28% lower than among young Blacks (62% versus 86%) as shown below.
Obama’s disapproval rate clocks in at 21% among 13 to 23-year-olds overall, but the compounding factors of race and region play significant roles in how he is viewed. Obama’s disapproval rate is 30% higher among young Whites than among the survey as a whole (30% versus 21%). His disapproval is 77% higher among young Whites than among young Blacks (30% versus 7%).
Regionally, Obama’s disapproval rate is highest in the conservative East South Central region at 31%, but is second highest in relatively-White New England at 28%. Below is a chart of Obama’s disapproval by region.
Market Research Foundation’s analysis of young New Englanders provides insight into the next generation of Americans, and boons well for candidates who speak to a limited-government America-First agenda. However, it is important to remember young people are still forming their political ideologies and opportunities to change their opinions abound, particularly in education and media. The purpose of our research is to move beyond the media-cycle headlines claiming Generation Z is solidly leftwing. The reality is much more nuanced, and the policy views of young Americans are not only greatly influenced by race, and region, they’re aligning outside of the current dominating political ideologies. Among this generation, it is easy to find White, non-religious New Englanders who are even bigger border-hawks than their Southern neighbors, socially conservative religious Hispanics who think America has a duty to foreign nations, and highly religious postgraduates. Race, religion, and region all play very important roles in young people’s views of the United States and its responsibilities to American citizens and foreign nations.