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Next Generation Tells Leaders What They Think of Capitalism, Socialism, and the Health of Democracy


Frank Luntz Focus Group Video on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’ and CNN Reveal Insights into What Future Challenges Need to Be Addressed

Conversations with the next generation of voters and business leaders reveal some stark realities about what the future holds for capitalism and the health of democracy.

In a focus group of 19 first and second-time Generation Z voters, 18 to 29 years old, conducted by political strategist and researcher Dr. Frank Luntz, the conversation revealed some startling insights and concerns about America’s economic future .

Luntz debuted portions of the focus group findings on cable news CNBC’s morning show Squawk Box earlier this month, and on the cable news channel CNN. The findings quickly went viral on CNBC, with 50,000 viewers watching the segment online. Typically, the show sees 10,000 online views. On CNN, the segment focused on the health of democracy and garnered some 450,000 viewers.

Three of the findings focused on inequality, an intense dislike for the state of capitalism, and aging, out of touch government leadership.

“Young people think the inequality that exists in America justifies economic redistribution and government directly engaging in the economy in a more aggressive fashion,” said Luntz about the focus group results. “The intensity is anti-capitalism rather than pro-socialism. Young people resent and reject the current system much more than they embrace and support socialism,” he said.

An Unfair Future

In the focus group, with participants ranging from children of Cuban refugees to well-off suburbanites, there was a widespread feeling the U.S capitalistic system was not to be trusted, was unequal, and does not provide security.

In presenting the results, Luntz detailed the real concern he had for the country if America’s future voters, and leaders, “didn’t believe the system is working for them.”

In one typical exchanged on the merits of capitalism versus socialism, one student said: “I prefer socialism. I think that capitalism is not inherently bad, but in our country where people don’t start with the same resources, succeeding in a capitalistic economy is becoming increasingly more difficult as our wealth gap quickens.”

While several of the students defended capitalism, and meritocracy, when the questions turned to Congress and whether current elected representatives understand “your life,” the feeling was nearly universal that they do not.

One student, Bianca, summed up the feeling among most of those in the group, many of which work two jobs to pay for schooling, rent, and food.

“I don’t think they understand or consider how hard we have to work,” she said. “I am working twelve-hour days and I don’t think they take into account how much effort we have to put in to actually make sure that our bills are paid, and how we have to take from here to pay there. I don’t think they take that portion of it into consideration at all.”

When it came to the question of “Is Democracy working in America?” the comments were equally hard-nosed.

“I would say the biggest threat to our democracy are politicians that are vested, have more vested interest in notoriety and media notoriety than actually accomplishing things,” said one voting age student named Sebastian. “But I would also say that having worked in Congress in staff, that there definitely are members that care about individual communities and care about their communities. I worked for one, but the biggest problem are the people that are constantly in the media clips causing political polarization, which is just dividing everyone and causing this havoc.”

In summarizing, Luntz believes the interest in the attitudes about first and second-time voters is remarkably high considering they vote less than every other age group.

“The topics of capitalism vs. socialism, meritocracy vs. equality, and democracy vs. everything else are being debated every day across America,” said Luntz. “Combine them and you get an unprecedented response.”

With the massive transfer of wealth occurring right now in the United States, from Baby Boomers and Gen X to Millennials, some $90 trillion over 20 years by some estimates, conversations with the “Next Gen” are critical, according to Pat Soldano, President of Family Enterprise USA and Policy and Taxation Group. Both organizations are bipartisan, non-profit organizations advocating on behalf of family businesses.

“We need to begin listening to and communicating with these future leaders to ensure our economic system and our democracy stay strong,” she said.

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