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The Clash of Generations and American Foreign Policy

August 29, 2018 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall, William Ruger, Erik Goepner

A. Trevor Thrall, William Ruger, and Erik Goepner

Does the rise of the Millennial Generation spell doom for
America’s global leadership? To listen to thosewho support America’s continued deep engagement in the world the possibility is
all too real. Recent polling from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows 47
percent of Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) think the
United States should “stay out” of world affairs and
only 51 percent think the country should “take an active
part” in them. This is compared to well over 70 percent of
the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) and the Silent
Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945), who favor an active
role for the United States.

Today, with the midterms looming as a referendum on President
Donald Trump, the nation’s most powerful Baby Boomer, several
commentators have noted that Millennial turnout could very well
dictate the composition of the next Congress — and their
electoral weight will only keep growing. In 2016, Baby Boomers
made up 31 percent of voters compared to the
Millennials’ 27 percent. But with Boomer numbers declining
and Millennials more likely to vote as they age, these young adults
could overtake their elders at the ballot box in 2020.

For all the concerns about Millennials, however, the story
behind America’s attitude shifts on foreign policy is more
mixed than many realize.

In short, since World War
II successive generations of Americans have become less hawkish and
want a more cooperative U.S. foreign policy.

Though there are real signs of global leadership fatigue,
younger Americans are not opposed to engagement with the world when
it is mutually beneficial. In fact, younger Americans remain quite
committed to international life in their own way. However, as our
recent study published with the Chicago Council
on Global Affairs reveals, the United States is experiencing an
intergenerational shift in attitudes about the proper goals and
tools of foreign policy. Relative to their elders, younger
Americans are much less supportive of the use of military force
abroad, but they are equally or more supportive of international
trade, cooperation, and diplomacy.

For example, in our study, just 44 percent of Millennials and 54
percent of Generation Xers (those born between 1965 and 1980)
believed that maintaining superior military power should be a very
important foreign policy goal of the United States, compared to 64
percent of Baby Boomers and 70 percent of the Silent Generation. In
that same survey Millennials were also the least supportive of
conducting airstrikes against Syria …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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