Millennials are not easily impressed. According to a recent study released by Pew Research Center, 50 percent of Millennials are political independents, and almost one third are not affiliated to any organized religion. They are linked by social media, debt and distrust of people and are relatively optimistic: 49 percent believe the best years are yet to come.
This is a confident, nonconformist generation of independent thinkers in more ways than one. The sense of belonging for these young adults who are between the ages of 18 and 33 is different from previous generations. Part of an age of rapid change, Millennials are digital natives who did not have to learn how to use technology; they were born into it. This generation is not only unafraid to be different, they seek to be. In their world, customized messaging is revered; following the pack is passé. They embody the “selfie” generation whose attitude toward brands, organizations and most things traditional are met with skepticism — and for good reason.
They saw sacred institutions cover up pedophilia, governments’ abuse of power and indiscriminate corporate layoffs affecting their once economically stable parents. Loyalty to workers, companies, political parties and brands is out. The proof is in the statistics.
Millennials are reluctant to join a particular political party, organized religion or marry early. Pew reveals that only one-third of them are heads of households, in part because of the burden of debt likely stemming from the cost of education. While half are independents, just 31 percent believe there is a difference between both major parties. Although 31 percent identify themselves as liberals, 29 percent see themselves as conservative, separating the two by the smallest of margins. They tend toward the liberal point of view.
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Millennial support of immigration reform (55 percent), same-sex marriage (68 percent) and the legalization of marijuana (69 percent) are logical results. They are also the most diverse demographic group nationwide.
Pew confirms that 43 percent of Millennials are nonwhites and the numbers will continue to grow thanks to the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. Hispanics make up the largest of minority groups, with the average age being 27. If the census numbers continue along this trajectory, the majority of the U.S. population will be non-European white before midcentury. Millennials, literally, are changing the face of America. When it comes to religion, 86 percent say they believe in God, but only 58 percent believe it with certainty.
The growth of agnostics among Millennials is markedly pronounced over older generations, again underscoring their independence from traditional communities.
Remarkably, despite coming of age at the onset of the Big Recession and the challenges of getting a job, Millennials remain optimistic. A whopping 86 percent feel that they make enough money to keep them happy for now, likely because most still live with Mom, Dad and their refrigerator. Nonetheless, this optimism is an important characteristic of this demographic because it is consistent with our national identity.
The American Dream is based on the belief that each one of us is capable of success. The desire for economic and social success lies at the core of each individual and, as Americans, it is our core belief that regardless of circumstance of birth, we all have a chance at success. Everything suggests that this young group believes in that promise.
These facts and observations all beg the question of how Millennials will lead the nation going forward.
Chances are they will lead in a hybrid fashion. As digital citizens, they have changed the way we communicate on every level, challenging businesses, political parties and society as a whole to keep up. Millennials are forcing us to stay connected. In politics, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to learn from business that this group is not tied to a brand and that each product/candidate is viewed distinctively.
Millennials were engaged with President Obama’s optimistic message of “Yes, we can,” but became disenchanted when he proceeded to follow the traditional political culture rather than change it. Meaningful change as opposed to meaningful words is what this generation is all about.
For states such as Florida, Millennials will be political wild cards that will require both Republicans and Democrats to reassess their message. These voters are conscientious consumers who boycott companies that have poor social policies; they will do the same with political parties. Unaccustomed to limited choices they favor those with ideas that borrow from different sides. Today that means bipartisanship.