As I was working on my recent article about the potential political impact of green legislation on the Millennial Generation, I was particularly struck by descriptions of how globally this generation views issues. Experts kept stressing that young adults now reject American exceptionalism, and expect diplomacy and international co-operation. One said that, in his opinion, Barack Obama may have won the Democratic nomination when Hillary Clinton derided him for being willing to sit down with leaders of hostile nations -- to Millennials, Clinton was lost in old thinking, Obama viewed the world as they do.
That generational difference comes across in the latest iteration of one of my favorite polls, the Pew Research Center's political values survey. Pew doesn't call them Millennials, but the findings about 18-29 year-olds are fascinating. (The report is full of other great material, largely about the ongoing collapse of the GOP.)
Only 38% of young adults say that peace is best ensured through military strength -- 15 points lower than the average. And over the past couple of years, that figure is declining for young adults, but increasing for older age groups.
Those under age 30 also are most likely to favor pathways to citizenship for illegal iimmigrants. And no wonder: just 35% say that newcomers from other countries threaten American customs and values. Again, that is declining. Older Americans are far more likely to say they have this concern -- nearly two-thirds of those 65+ -- and those figures are rising.
How about this one: on free trade, 55% of Americans say that China has taken unfair advantage of the US -- but just 38% of those under 30.
And here's a real whopper: barely a third of that age group describe themselves as "very patriotic," compared to around 60% of all those older than 29.
Perhaps these attitudes will change -- but that's not the impression I get from the folks who study Millennials. Of all the attitudes this generation shows, this may be the one most likely to define their political thinking.
Oh, and one more generational item plucked from the report: it's true, just as you suspected, that Gen-Xers are ruining Facebook. Just since December 2007, the use of social networking sites has doubled for those in their 30s, from 21% to 43%, and nearly tripled for those in their 40s, from 11% to 29%.