Since President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, part of the received wisdom about Millennials has been that they would push American public opinion on foreign policy in a more non-interventionist direction. Several surveys in the last few years have supported this notion: A 2011 Pew report found that Millennials were significantly more dovish than older generations, and a 2013 poll on Syria found that “opposition to unilateral airstrikes peaks among young adults.” Earlier this year, the Cato institute hopefully speculated that Millennials “may have internalized a permanent case of ‘Iraq Aversion.’”
But Millennials’ views on ISIS are complicating this narrative. A new poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics finds that 60 percent of Millennials support the use of U.S. ground troops against the Islamic State. The IOP only surveyed Millennials, so it’s impossible to directly compare this finding to the attitudes of older generations, but 60 percent is a higher level of support than most surveys have found among the general public. A CNN/ORC poll released earlier this week found 50 percent support for ground troops among Americans aged 18-34, roughly in line with the 53 percent support registered among the general public.
These are just two polls, and it’s very possible that the idea of Millennials as a non-interventionist generation overall will remain accurate in the long run. But it’s also possible that, for all the media headlines about Millennials’ uniqueness, they may end up being more similar to previous generations than many people think.