Feb. 19, 2007
The Pew Research Center released a survey report that examines how young people ages 18 to 25 view their lives, futures, and politics. The results are alternately fascinating and disheartening:
About half of Gen Nexters say the growing number of immigrants to the U.S. strengthens the country more than any generation. And they also lead the way in their support for gay marriage and acceptance of interracial dating.
Beyond these social issues, their views defy easy categorization. For example, 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.
They maintain close contact with parents and family. Roughly eight-in-ten say they talked to their parents in the past day. Nearly three-in-four see their parents at least once a week, and half say they see their parents daily. One reason: money. About three-quarters of Gen Nexters say their parents have helped them financially in the past year.
One-in-five members of Generation Next say they have no religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic, nearly double the proportion of young people who said that in the late 1980s. And just 4% of Gen Nexters say people in their generation view becoming more spiritual as their most important goal in life.
They are somewhat more interested in keeping up with politics and national affairs than were young people a generation ago. Still, only a third say they follow whats going on in government and public affairs most of the time.
In Pew surveys in 2006, nearly half of young people (48%) identified more with the
Democratic Party, while just 35% affiliated more with the GOP. This makes Generation
Next the least Republican generation.
They use technology and the internet to connect with people in new and distinctive ways. Text messaging, instant messaging and email keep them in constant contact with friends. About half say they sent or received a text message over the phone in the past day, approximately double the proportion of those ages 26-40.
They are the Look at Me generation. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and MyYearbook allow individuals to post a personal profile complete with photos and
descriptions of interests and hobbies. A majority of Gen Nexters have used one of these
social networking sites, and more than four-in-ten have created a personal profile.
Their embrace of new technology has made them uniquely aware of its advantages and
disadvantages. They are more likely than older adults to say these cyber-tools make it easier for them to make new friends and help them to stay close to old friends and family. But more than eight-in-ten also acknowledge that these tools make people lazier.
Their parents may not always be pleased by what they see on those visits home: About half of Gen Nexters say they have either gotten a tattoo, dyed their hair an untraditional color, or had a body piercing in a place other than their ear lobe. The most popular are tattoos, which decorate the bodies of more than a third of these young adults.
Voter turnout among young people increased significantly between 2000 and 2004,
interrupting a decades-long decline in turnout among the young. Nonetheless, most members of Generation Next feel removed from the political process. Only about four-in-ten agree with the statement: Its my duty as a citizen to always vote.
They are significantly less cynical about government and political leaders than are other
Americans or the previous generation of young people. A majority of Americans agree with the statement: When something is run by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful, but most Generation Nexters reject this idea.
Their heroes are close and familiar. When asked to name someone they admire, they are
twice as likely as older Americans to name a family member, teacher, or mentor. Moreover, roughly twice as many young people say they most admire an entertainer rather than a political leader.
They are more comfortable with globalization and new ways of doing work. They are the most likely of any age group to say that automation, the outsourcing of jobs, and the growing number of immigrants have helped and not hurt American workers.
Asked about the life goals of those in their age group, most Gen Nexters say their
generations top goals are fortune and fame. Roughly eight-in-ten say people in their
generation think getting rich is either the most important, or second most important, goal in their lives. About half say that becoming famous also is valued highly by fellow Gen