The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) Releases Freedom Index Measuring Americans’ Attitude Toward Freedom
Contrary to what is often depicted in the news or social media, a new national survey released today by The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) shows that 9 out of 10 millennials overwhelming support freedom of speech and religious freedom.
The survey finds:
- 93% of millennials support religious freedom
- 92% of millennials support free speech
“The media keeps showing us images of violent protests on college campuses, young Americans being angry and disruptive, but the truth is that millennials support religious and social freedoms more than non-millennials,” said Roger Ream, President, The Fund for American Studies (TFAS). “There’s a vast, silent majority of millennials who embrace these freedoms and those are the young men and women we are seeing in our programs.”
The Support for Freedom Index, a first of its kind national study conducted for The Fund for American Studies by WPA Intelligence, measures how Americans define freedom and whether they generally support “more” or “less” government interference in their daily lives.
Millennials (ages 18-34) represent the best indication of how the next generation views freedom and the implication for future public policy. They predominantly believe that “more government” is necessary to protect freedoms. But they also believe the government should be safeguarding freedom more so than guaranteeing security:
- Almost 6 out of 10 millennials would choose liberty (60%) over security (40%) as opposed to individuals age 55-64 who are evenly split in their support for security (49%) and liberty (51%)
- 54% of millennials support “more government” over “less government” (40%) as opposed to non-millennials who support “less government” (51%) over “more government” (45%)
The study also explores the difference between political parties in terms of their attitudes toward liberty and security:
- Republicans support security (57%) over liberty (43%)
- Democrats support liberty (64%) over security (36%)
- Independents support security (60%) over liberty (40%)
Additionally, further distinctions at the ideological level within the Republican party were found. When asked to choose between individual liberty and concerns about security, conservatives split evenly between their support for liberty (51%) and security (49%). Republicans fall more in the camp of “more government” that ensures national security. Conservatives fall primarily in the camp of “less government” that promotes liberty.
“When you take a comparative look at conservative and Republican ideologies toward freedom, you would expect a lot of overlap. One of the surprising findings of this survey is that Republicans favor an active government approach which prioritizes security over individual liberties,” said Roger Ream. “This may explain some of the resonance for President Trump’s message in the GOP primaries, resonance that many, at the time, didn’t fully grasp. Conservatives were more supportive of a passive government which prioritizes liberty over security concerns,” Ream concludes.
The final point of interest is a disconnect between a general support for freedom and support for freedom on specific economic issues. Certain items in the survey emphasize the complexity of the free market, especially in demographics we didn’t expect, namely conservatives and Republicans. Where Republicans and conservatives strongly support a reduction in government regulations over property rights, they also support an increase in government through regulations of industries. For instance:
- A majority of Republicans (61%) and Conservatives (57%) believe that the government should regulate oil companies to keep gas prices at reasonable levels
- A majority of Republicans (74%) and Conservatives (71%) believe that the government should prevent drug companies from increasing the prices of life-saving drugs
- A majority of Republicans (71%) and Conservatives (70%) support tariffs on goods that Americans buy from overseas
“This is due in part to a failure on the part of traditional education to teach economics and the media to explain economics to the average American,” Ream said. “The Fund for American Studies was formed to bridge that gap, and provide an educational foundation which teaches economics and emphasizes the importance of all aspects of freedom.”
The Fund for American Studies celebrates 50 years at the forefront of building a culture of freedom through its various programs. TFAS has passed this principle on to more than 16,000 young people through its academic and fellowship programs, helping to launch many great leaders by providing them a foundation rooted in the principles of freedom and appreciation for the country they live in.
“To commemorate our 50th anniversary we commissioned this Freedom Index to engage in a national discussion on the importance of freedom and what freedom means,” said Ream. “This study helped shed some light on the Millennial generation and the potential future of American political thought.”
The Support for Freedom Index is a project of The Fund for American Studies and WPA Intelligence. To read the executive summary or to view the full index, please see below.