Political scientists have been well aware since the early 1960s that what most people know about politics and government is minimal and that their beliefs lack constraint. Constraint is the idea that the things one believes should make sense together. Philip Converse (who is still alive, believe it or not) made his name by demonstrating that only a small percentage of Americans constrain their thinking in ideological terms. In the past decade or two we've seen an explosion of the use of ideological terms – liberal, conservative, socialist – but that doesn't mean they are used correctly. To the average crank, "liberal" means "Stuff I don't like."
This is not news to anyone. Whether you keep yourself current on public opinion data, study political science, or merely listen to the nonsense ideas people express constantly about politics, we recognize that opinions about one issue are not necessarily connected to opinions on another. This is true of Americans of any demographic, although better educated people tend to have slightly more coherent belief systems.
Writers who need to generate some content but can't think of a good idea can reliably churn out a "Look how stupid Americans are!" piece using polling data. It's hardly surprising. That said, I think most of us were a little floored to see just how little sense the political beliefs of "millennials" make. As in, they appear to make no sense at all.
This made the rounds online recently, and they do require some caveats. One is that young people generally know the least about politics, and this is not unique to the current crop. The second is that it is possible to have somewhat useful political beliefs without being able to answer the kind of questions that academics and pollsters expect you to be able to answer. Even with those caveats, this is pretty bad. A couple things stand out.
Even more than most Americans, their beliefs appear to hinge on how things are pitched and what terms are used. They are repelled by the term "Obamacare" to a greater extent than their elders, despite liking Obama and being supportive of national healthcare (What?). It seems that these responses are twisted by opposing forces – these kids have been bombarded by conservative propaganda since birth (hence their allergy to terms like "liberal" and "Obamacare") while their own political preferences, to the extent that they have any, are not nearly as paleolithic. The years of Fox News and Tea Party-themed lectures from dad lead to them rejecting things that contain the wrong keywords – Government bad! Liberal bad! Taxes evil! – but that aversion is not necessarily connected to any of their actual opinions.
Perhaps I'm trying too hard to read something into the aggregate data; maybe they really are as ignorant as the numerous "OMG look at how dumb they are" pieces suggest. Nonetheless, the data imply that things won't be getting much better in the foreseeable future.