I just read a new report from the PEW Research Center on the comparative opinions of Millennials (18 to 29 age group) and older age groups, and was struck by how few differences materialized for most of the topics.
The survey, which was part of a larger survey about opinions of the last decade, asked people from different generations to rate whether a given thing was a “change for the better.” The box below shows opinions on various technologies. Not surprisingly, opinions for most of the items were similarly positive for age groups across the board, except for the eldest among us (65+) who clearly do not like social networking sites and blogs. But people ages 18-64 are all embracing new tech with relatively few reservations.
Now let’s go to topics that have historically been generational blockades. When asked if they believed “Green products” to be a change for the better, Millennials’, Xers’ and Boomers’ responses were virtually identical (77, 73 and 70%). The environmentalism divide that used to separate the young and old(er) appears to be disappearing. Only those 65+ came in on the low end of greenness (45%).
More interestingly, when asked about “Racial and ethnic diversity”—that once controversial playing field where affirmative action and racial quotas sparked fiery debates—those ages 18-64 are again in near-perfect, high-pitched agreement (67, 65% and 58%). Only those 65+ can still lay claim to the diversity critic moniker (49%).
Here’s a good one: when asked about “More surveillance and security,” the Millennials and Xers say “bring it on!” You want to pat me down, X-ray me, go through my bags and videotape me? No worries, we’re on board to the tune of 66 and 61%. Boomers, those traditional stalwart defenders of privacy, were a bit more skeptical on this one (52%) but only a hair more skeptical than their elders (54%).
On “Genetic testing,” for some reason Millennials and Boomers are on the same page (60 and 56%), while Xers and 65+ folks are in closer agreement (51 and 44%); but, again, not really a generational divide worth talking about.
On “Acceptance of gays and lesbians,” Millennials and Xers are in agreement (44 and 45%), with Boomers not too far behind (37%). But on this one those 65+ are in an entirely different ballpark: 21%.
And perhaps the grand unifier of the generations, a question I am so glad PEW decided to ask—are “Reality TV shows a change for the better?”–yielded a marvelous result: 7, 10, 7 and 8% respectively. Gen Xers are still a bit nostalgic for The Real World so they came in higher than everyone else—but overall, we’re all pretty sure that reality TV has helped devolve our species.
For some of these questions, generational agreement isn’t at all bad. We could do worse than have most age groups approve of green initiatives. Still, sameness seems strange considering the long history of generational discord in this country. Maybe we’re on the brink of a new era of kumbayaness? Or are we all so burned out from the last decade that we just don’t have the energy to disagree?