Stella Rouse, University of Maryland, and I have been working on a project for a few years about the political attitudes of the Millennial Generation. It is a timely topic as this age cohort has now surpassed Baby Boomers to be the largest generation in our nation. And it is a personal topic – I am a Millennial (an older one, but still). Despite a lot of press about Millennials, we don’t know what their political attitudes are as a collective in regards to important topics, ranging from the economy to education to foreign policy to immigration to climate change.
Over the past year, Stella and I have investigated Millennial political attitudes through an original survey and focus groups. We argue that Millennials are distinct as a generation in their political beliefs and that this is a result of their generational frame. This frame or persona is a collective identity, in the loose sense of the term, that features greater tolerance for diversity; cosmopolitanism or a broad worldview; and liberal political values and policy support. This persona has been shaped by the global proliferation of technology, shrinking national boundaries and making information more accessible than ever, as well as this generation’s demographics, namely that minority groups comprise nearly 40% of this age cohort. This identity influences the beliefs Millennials hold, but there are differences in political attitudes among Millennials. For example, Latino Millennials are more supportive of immigrants than White Millennials. We investigate Millennial attitudes across a number of policy topics, including the economy, healthcare, immigration, and the environment, as well as for the issue of political participation and engagement.
I see this project as illuminating how Millennials contribute to local community resilience. This group’s political and community engagement looks different than previous generations, and I believe this may have important implications for how we build disaster resilience. Messaging is critical because Millennials are active social media users, but pursuing policies that resonate with this group, I would conjecture, is also relevant. The ideas Millennials have and the values they hold with regards to the environment should be evaluated as we face threats from multiple hazards, including climate change. Their political and policy “buy-in” will be important for the success of future mitigation efforts.
This project is now under book contract with Michigan Press. Currently Stella and I are working on further developing the manuscript and look forward to sharing the final product with you next year. In the meantime, you can read our article on Millennials and immigration published in Social Science Quarterly, available here: 2015 volume 95(5): 1336-1379 and here: SSRN Ross & Rouse (2015).