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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Millennials: More Government, Please

Flickr user Beverly & Pack

Much has been written about the disgust of the millennial generation with the state of the American political system and about how federal agencies haven’t been able to get younger folks to commit to careers in public service.

But this doesn’t apparently translate into a distrust of government generally, or a lack of faith in its ability to deal with the challenges facing the country. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released this week found that fully 60 percent of millennials say government should do more to solve problems, rather than leaving things up to businesses and individuals. Only 37 percent say government shouldn’t shoulder more responsibility.

In contrast, of those aged 35 and older in the survey, only 46 percent say government should do more, while fully half say the public sector is already doing too much.

Part of the issue here is that millennials appear simply to be more liberal than their elders. (In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, they’re the only group with a net positive view of President Obama.) Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that millennials are fans of big government. They may just be seeking more effectiveness out of the government we’ve already got.

That said, millennials are clearly less cynical than either Baby Boomers or Generation Xers when it comes to what government can accomplish. That’s good news. But it also presents a challenge for federal agencies and their political overseers. After all, there was a time when many Baby Boomers were optimistic about government’s ability to change the world for the better. If they became disillusioned, any generation can.

Photo illustration: Flickr user Beverly & Pack

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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