A Portrait of “Generation Next”

I was just looking at a Pew suvey.

A Portrait of “Generation Next”
How Young People View Their Lives, Futures and Politics

Most of it I was already familiar with.  This young generation (defined as those born between 1981 and 1988) are strongly liberal and the most Democratic of any generation.  They also consist of a large percentage of atheists and agnostics.  They’re moderately interested in politics, but what is interesting is their specific political attitudes.

Generation Next is less critical of government regulation of business but also less critical of business itself. And they are the most likely of any generation to support privatization of the Social Security system.

So, they apparently are for big business just as long as there is big government regulating it.  They’re fine with privatizing Social Security which is something many conservatives supported (but I’d be interested if their position on this might change as it becomes more politicized by Republicans).  Related to all of this, they’re not critical of globalization.  They think “that automation, the outsourcing of jobs, and the growing number of immigrants have helped and not hurt American workers.”

They are progressive and optimistic.  Growing up with constant technological change, they embrace change.  Going by other data, I think there two most defining moments are the 9/11 terrorist attack (fear) and the election of President Obama (hope)… from fear to hope.

– – –

Update (1/26/11) – I just came across an NPR interview where Pew data is discussed. The page on the Pew site is dated around the same time (the following month) as the above report. So, it’s probably from the same set of data, but it is a different report. I just wanted to add this because something interesting was stated in the interview. The guest mentioned that Millennials tend to identify as liberals, that they actually use that specific label to describe themselves. In being asked “What Makes Your Generation Unique?”, 7% answered that it was because their generation is liberal/tolerant. It’s unlikely that their liberalism is to change considering they are more liberal than previous generations at the same age. This is remarkable considering how unpopular the liberal label has become with most older people. Here is what it says from the report:

To be sure, Millennials remain the most likely of any generation to self-identify as liberals; they are less supportive than their elders of an assertive national security policy and more supportive of a progressive domestic social agenda. They are still more likely than any other age group to identify as Democrats. Yet by early 2010, their support for Obama and theDemocrats had receded, as evidenced both by survey data and by their low level of participation in recent off-year and special elections.

That quote confirms another observation I’ve noted from other data (in particular, Beyond Red vs Blue). Only around a 1/3 of Democrats identify as liberal and almost 1/2 of self-identified liberals consider themselves Independents. So, there might be a loosening of the past alliance between liberals and Democrats which has existed since the Civil Rights movement. However, it’s important to note that these young liberals didn’t switch from Democrat to Republican. Like many other liberals, they’ve chosen to become Independents. Still, I suspect the Democratic Party will always have an appeal to Millennials. The Democratic Party has become identified with a positive vision of government and Millennials are the only generation that has a majority agreeing that “Government should do more to solve problems”.

5 thoughts on “A Portrait of “Generation Next”

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