Generation Y grew up in the shadow of a decade-long war and an economic crash both caused by authority figures’
filthy lies faulty assumptions, so it’s no surprise that skepticism of government and corporations is running high — but researchers are now warning that young people’s cynicism toward social institutions and even fellow citizens is at unsustainable levels.
A new study from the University of Georgia compared 140,000 millennials’ responses to previous generations’ attitudes. Between 2000 and 2012, millennial approval of Congress plummeted from 49% to 22%. (Compare that to the 30% of baby boomers happy with Congress during the Vietnam years.) In the same timespan, millennial approval of corporations dropped from 54% to 33% — and the results are similar for organized religion, upper education, police departments, the media and…hmm, that about covers it?
The world is always facing various crises, and every generation is embittered by something — from Watergate to Kurt Cobain’s death — but the past decade has seen an unraveling of many baseline assumptions: A college degree means a good job after graduation; the government respects citizens’ privacy; climate change is still a long way off; the adults running things know what the hell they’re doing.
Without any faith in older generations to fix society, perhaps it makes sense that millennials have such high rates of entrepreneurship in a technological field that prides itself on “disruption.” We’ve watched everything get messed up…but hey, maybe we can fix it or even build something new?
Just as troublingly, the Associated Press reports, only 16% of millennials believe that “most people can be trusted” today, versus half of Americans back in the 1970s. All age groups feel more cynical than they did 10 years ago, but the under-35 crowd is the most pissed off and paranoid.
Not everything is so bleak, however. The Pew Research Center found that 73% of millennials are convinced they’ll “eventually achieve their life goals.” So basically, we don’t believe in anything — except ourselves?