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Brexit’s Generational Divide has Counterpart in Indiana

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Dr. Joseph Losco, Director
Ball State University

One of the clear findings from exit polls in Britain’s recent referendum to exit the European Union is the division of opinion between young and old. The YouGov poll taken just before the vote showed that only about 19% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 supported a British exit. But among pensioners, who came of age before the E.U. was created, 59% wanted their country to leave. While older Brits believed the country was better off going it alone, younger voters displayed greater faith in a globally interconnected future. The disparities don’t end there. According to surveys, younger Brits are more likely than older generations in the UK to consider social problems the responsibility of individuals rather than government and more tolerant of diverse lifestyles. They care about the environment, but are also keen on commerce.

The generational differences on display in the Brexit vote are not limited to the United Kingdom. Surveys show Millennials in the United States are more likely to support LGBT rights and marijuana legalization and are to express more liberal attitudes generally on social issues than their elders. They are more likely to marry later in life, if at all, and less likely to attend church than their elders. And Millennials have now surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

While the Millennial growth rate in Indiana is not projected to be as great as in the rest of the country, the generational differences between young and old are just as stark in the Hoosier state as they are nationally and in Great Britain. Over the last several years, the Bowen Center for Public Affairs has tracked generational differences in attitudes on a number of social issues.

For example, while 16.5% of younger Hoosiers think marijuana use should be decriminalized, only 11.7% of senior Hoosiers feel the same way. Only 16 percent of Hoosiers 65 years of age and older consider themselves liberal, but fully 26 percent of Indiana’s youth between 18-24 do so. While 38.5% of those 65 and older attend church services once a week or more, over 32 percent of young Hoosiers between 18 and 24 say they never or seldom attend church services. And generational differences with regard to support for diverse life styles are particularly striking. For example, while 12 percent of senior Hoosiers believe it is acceptable for transgendered individuals to use the bathroom of their preferred gender rather than their birth gender, 18 percent of 18-24 year olds in the Hoosier state support such a practice.

For more on changing Hoosier attitudes, check out Hoosier Surveys from 2008 to the present at our website: