The most concerning thing about the latest survey on Millennials

Many people strive to understand the millennial generation in an effort to gauge where the country is headed. Pew Research came out with a new report last week on this generation, which spans the ages of 18 to 33. Among the reported highlights were a lack of patriotism, a lack of religious affiliation and an affinity for political independence.

But that doesn’t really tell the whole story.

There is much to be gathered from this survey and much of it repeats trends from previous generations.  Earlier generations of young people tended to have more liberal views on a number of social, societal and political issues. The Millennials are nothing different.

Also, marriage rates are at a record low for this generation compared to others at the same age.  However the trend for decades has been to delay marriage until later in life.

Millennials aren’t outliers compared to other generations when it comes to political independence or religious affiliation.  Many stories have hyped the fact that 50 percent of Millennials consider themselves politically “independent” and 29 percent are not affiliated with any organized religion. But it’s also important to note that all generations saw a growth in the number of people identifying as politically independent, and the rise of the religious “nones” is pervasive through all generations.

Yes, it is true that Millennials have greater proportions of these traits than other generations, but it is not as though they are an aberration.

The same can be said for social issues, where it is clear that Millennials are expectedly more progressive than previous generations.  Whether it’s gay marriage, legalization of marijuana or interracial marriage, Millennials are more accepting on these issues and do not believe they are bad for society.

All generations do agree that being raised by a single parent is bad for society. Unfortunately, it continues to be a problem as a record 47 percent of births from the Millennial generation are to single mothers.

Perhaps the sharpest divide exists with technology. Millennials have a fundamentally different relationship with technology, and this alters their relationship with the world.  The “selfie” is perhaps the clearest expression of much of the millennial generation: it is a “me” generation, where the world is organized according to how Millennials see fit and not how anyone else says it should be.

This explains the seeming rejection of institutional identification. Whether it’s religion or politics, Millennials do not accept the world as it has been defined by previous generations.  With this comes tremendous opportunities, but it also raises the conversation as to what type of society Millennials do want, if not the current one.

To their credit, Millennials understand the fact that the Republican and Democratic parties are virtually no different. It’s no longer right vs. left, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s us vs. them.

Millennials are more likely to rally behind individual icons such as Barack Obama. They didn’t overwhelming vote for Obama because he’s a Democrat; they voted for him because he’s Barack Obama – an important distinction

But rather than focus on individual policies in isolation, it’s far more telling, and concerning, to identify how people feel about the overall role of government.

There is a stark contrast between how whites and non-whites view the role of government, and this is consistent among all generations.

Among white Millennials, 52 percent prefer a smaller government with fewer services compared to 39 percent who want a bigger government providing more services. But among non-white Millennials, 71 percent prefer a bigger government with more services compared to just 21 percent who want smaller government.

The numbers are virtually the same for Gen Xers and Boomers; whites overwhelmingly prefer smaller government while non-whites want a larger government.

As a proponent of small government, these numbers are disheartening. There are many reasons as to why we’ve arrived at such stark differences, but I remain optimistic that the message of liberty – and smaller government – will unite us all, rather than divide us.

Freedom and empowerment of the individual has no color; it has no generational label. If Millennials want to embrace “patriotism,” they can fight to protect the integrity of our founding documents and principles.

Many Millennials may think they want bigger government, but eventually it will start effecting things they care about like their precious technology. I agree with Senator Rand Paul that this is a key opportunity to exploit among this generation, and their default will likely be smaller government in an effort to save their online freedom and privacy.

To read more on how to engage the millennial generation, read my column: An idiots guide to getting America’s youth engaged in politics


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