A fairly new article in First Things reports on
a fascinating new paper in The Journal of Democracy suggest[ing] that liberal democracy is losing ground even at home, in the West. Political scientists Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk review data from recent World Values Surveys and observe some truly remarkable trends, especially among young people. Young people often reject the traditions of their elders; that’s nothing new. What they seem to be rejecting nowadays, though, in increasing numbers, is the tradition of liberalism itself.
For example, the percentage of people in Western Europe and the United States who say it is “essential” for them to live in a democratically-governed country has declined dramatically across generations. In the United States, less than one-third of millennials—defined as people born since 1980—say it is essential for them. Think about that: More than two-thirds of American young people say democratic government is not a crucial factor in where they would want to live.
According to Foa and Mounk, these numbers do not reflect growing indifference to liberal democracy, but growing opposition. In the surveys, young people increasingly express openness to authoritarianism—especially young people who are rich. An astonishing 35 percent of wealthy young Americans say it would be “a ‘good’ thing for the army to take over” the country! This is a profound change from prior generations, in which “affluent citizens were much more likely than people of lower income groups to defend democratic institutions.”
…The surveys reveal that younger Americans value civil liberties, such as free speech, less than their parents did. For example, only 32 percent of millennials say that civil rights are “absolutely essential” in a democracy, a steep drop from previous generations.