FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten explores public opinion trends with regards to capital punishment. In doing so, he finds that:
Unlike issues such as same-sex marriage and marijuana, where a large age gap favors the more progressive position, young Americans aren’t all that more likely than older Americans to oppose the death penalty. Pew’s 2013 survey had a large sample size of 646 18- to 29-year-olds, and that poll found that those younger than 30 were only 4 percentage points more likely to oppose the death penalty than all Americans. The same held true in the 2012 General Social Survey; of all adults, 65 percent favored the death penalty, and 61 percent of adults younger than 30 supported capital punishment.
Why do you think this is? My guess would be that it has to do with proximity to the relevant issues. Young people are more likely to know people who are gay and are more likely to use marijuana or know people who use marijuana. Their interaction with laws relating to the two is more real than abstract. I doubt that young people are any more or less likely to interact with capital punishment in any sort of meaningful way that we’d expect them to respond much differently than the broader population.
But that’s just me spitballin’. What do y’all think? Does my theory hold water? Is something else going on? Are we wrong to look at same-sex marriage and marijuana as presume these represent broader political ideological trends among young people?