Generational Views on Foreign Policy

posted on May 5, 2012 in Leadership

The Pew Research Center recently published an interesting report examining generational differences on key questions regarding foreign policy and national security.  By asking respondents to agree or disagree with a series of divergent questions such as “relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism” vs. “using overwhelming force is the best way to defeat terrorism,” the poll reveals some unique trends among the generations.

According to Pew, one unmistakable trend appears – generations become less liberal on foreign policy as they become older. When presented with the statement “the best way to ensure peace is through good diplomacy, 66% of Millennials agreed compared to 62% of Generation X, 52% of Baby Boomers, and 49% of Silent Generation, a 17 point spread.  The question “it’s OK to refuse to fight in a war that you believe is morally wrong” produced the largest (26 point) divergence amongst generations, with 62% of Millennials in agreement compared to 36% of the Silent Generation.

As a quick aside, some may not be familiar with the term “Silent Generation.” According to this Wikipedia article, it refers to the generation between the “Greatest Generation” and “Baby Boomers” who grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. Today, many are older than 65.

Previous Pew studies found that Millennials are also the most educated and connected generation today. Is it possible that broad access to information and worldwide dialogue influences Millennials to communicate and compromise more? And how does the worldwide broadcast of current conflicts, protests, and other violence affect Millennial’s views about foreign policy? Could these explain why Millennials view diplomacy as the best way to ensure peace (66%) and that relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism (66%).

What does this mean for the future? Will Millennials mark a new Democratic transition in American foreign policy? Or does this trend mean that younger generations not yet born will be even more liberal than Millennials today, making us the new conservatives?

Dan Perez is a Blogger for YPFP and a defense consultant based inWashington DC. He holds an MPA from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a BA from Tufts University. His blog writing focuses on Millennial interactions with the workplace, the military, and social media.