Millennials have come of age in an era of economic tumult, increased political partisanship, and scandalous revelations about abuses of power that have shaken trust in the government and its leaders.
Millennials are increasingly “wary of government and its ability to enact positive change,” according to a recent demographic study conducted by Reason-Rupe.
They are not the first generation with this attitude, as Baby Boomers would be quick to attest, but what is telling about the survey is that Millennials, who at a reported 86 million strong are 7 percent larger than the Boomers, were not always as pessimistic about lawmakers and government leaders.
In 2009, Pew Research Center found that less than half (42 percent) of Millennials said that government was “usually inefficient and wasteful,” compared to six-in-10 among Americans over the age of 30. This year, according to the Reason-Rupe study, that percentage has surged to 66 percent. “Even Millennials who favor a broader role for government view it as wasteful (57 percent),” the report finds.
Just as Baby Boomers had Watergate, so have Millennials come of age in an era of economic tumult, increased political partisanship, and scandalous revelations about abuses of power that have shaken trust in the government and its leaders. A majority (58 percent) believes that “government agencies generally abuse their power” while only one-fourth think they “generally do the right thing.”
The revelations by government contractor Edward Snowden about the federal government’s surveillance programs only served to confirm Millennials’ worst suspicions about alleged governmental abuse of power. They were more supportive than previous generations about Snowden’s release of the classified information. Six-in-ten said it served the public interest, while one-third said the revelations harmed it. Moreover, the Reason-Rupe study found, Millennials were the only age group to disapprove of the government’s covert data collection program.
If they have a dim view of government, Millennials have a more positive view of business, the report finds. A majority (55 percent) have entrepreneurial ambitions. Nearly half (47 percent) agree that “the strength of this country today is mostly based on the success of American business,” compared with one-third who believe, “American business gets more credit than it deserves for keeping the country strong.”
While “People Not Profit” signs were all the rage at Millennial-driven Occupy Wall Street rallies, the Reason-Rupe study notes that “hostility toward profit is not representative of the average Millennial. Seven-in-ten indicated they are primarily favorable toward competition because “it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas.” Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) indicate they have a generally favorable impression of profit because “it encourages businesses to provide valued products to attract customers.”
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Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.