Snapshot of Millennial Views

America’s millennial generation came of age during a period of acute economic uncertainty. That may explain why more than three-quarters of them say unemployment and finding a job are their greatest concerns, according to a new survey of “millennial values” from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

The second greatest concern of this young generation—its oldest members are pushing 30 and its youngest are on the verge of college—looks toward future economic problems; 55 percent say addressing the federal deficit is critically important, ranking education next (54 percent) as a major concern. Only one in five say social issues like abortion (22 percent) or same-sex marriage (22 percent) are critical social issues.

Advertisement

More than 15 percent of Americans now check the “none” box when asked about religious affiliation, and the survey offers no reason to believe that trend is likely to reverse. More than 25 percent of college-age millennials describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. Twenty percent of college millennials describe themselves as Catholic, but another 8 percent said they had been Catholics in childhood but were no longer, indicating a significant drop-off of Catholic affiliation by adulthood.

Most (58 percent) say that Christianity is relevant to their lives, but they have mixed feelings about it. Nearly two-thirds say Christianity is too judgmental, anti-homosexual and hypocritical. The rates of disapproval are even higher among unaffiliated millennials. About 80 percent of them describe Christianity as hypocritical and “anti-gay,” and 73 percent of them think Christianity is too involved in politics. Only 40 percent of Christian millennials agree.

Regarding other U.S. faith traditions, 12 percent describe Mormons in negative terms, and 47 percent believe that Islamic values are at odds with American values and way of life.

“College-age Millennials are also notable for their support for economic reforms that address the gap between the rich and the poor,” said Daniel Cox, Research Director at the Public Religion Research Institute. “More than 6-in-10 Millennials say that one of the biggest problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.”

Nearly 70 percent believe that the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, and 72 percent favor the “Buffett Rule,” which would increase the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million a year. At the same time, two-thirds also believe that poor people have become too dependent on government assistance.

President Obama can still count on the support of millennials this fall, just not as many as had backed him four years ago. Not only has his once commanding lead among millennials slipped, but a good number of young people may be sitting out the November election. The survey finds that President Obama holds a seven-point lead over a generic Republican candidate, with nearly half (48 percent) of millennial voters saying they would prefer that Obama win the 2012 election. But the survey also finds that only 61 percent of college-age millennials are currently registered to vote, and only 46 percent say they are absolutely certain they will vote in November.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018
Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018