January 9, 2007

A Portrait of “Generation Next”

How Young People View Their Lives, Futures and Politics

Summary of Findings

This is part of a Pew Research Center series of reports exploring the behaviors, values and opinions of the teens and twenty-somethings that make up the Millennial Generation.

A new generation has come of age, shaped by an unprecedented revolution in technology and dramatic events both at home and abroad. They are Generation Next, the cohort of young adults who have grown up with personal computers, cell phones and the internet and are now taking their place in a world where the only constant is rapid change.

In reassuring ways, the generation that came of age in the shadow of Sept. 11 shares the characteristics of other generations of young adults. They are generally happy with their lives and optimistic about their futures. Moreover, Gen Nexters feel that educational and job opportunities are better for them today than for the previous generation. At the same time, many of their attitudes and priorities reflect a limited set of life experiences. Marriage, children and an established career remain in the future for most of those in Generation Next.

More than two-thirds see their generation as unique and distinct, yet not all self-evaluations are positive. A majority says that “getting rich” is the main goal of most people in their age group, and large majorities believe that casual sex, binge drinking, illegal drug use and violence are more prevalent among young people today than was the case 20 years ago.

In their political outlook, they are the most tolerant of any generation on social issues such as immigration, race and homosexuality. They are also much more likely to identify with the Democratic Party than was the preceding generation of young people, which could reshape politics in the years ahead. Yet the evidence is mixed as to whether the current generation of young Americans will be any more engaged in the nation’s civic life than were young people in the past, potentially blunting their political impact.

This report takes stock of this new generation. It explores their outlook, their lifestyle and their politics. Because the boundaries that separate generations are indistinct, the definition of Generation Next ­ and other generational groups mentioned in this report ­ are necessarily approximate. For analysis purposes, Generation Next includes those Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 years old.

Meet Generation Next:

This report is drawn from a broad array of Pew Research Center polling data. The main survey was conducted Sept. 6-Oct. 2, 2006 among 1,501 adults ­ including 579 people ages 18-25. In addition, the report includes extensive generational analysis of Pew Research Center surveys dating back to 1987.

Much of the analysis deals with comparisons among the four existing adult generations. For purposes of this report, Generation Next is made up of 18-25 year-olds (born between 1981 and 1988). Generation X was born between 1966 and 1980 and ranges in age from 26-40. The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, ranges in age from 41-60. Finally, those over age 60 (born before 1946) are called the Seniors. These generational breaks are somewhat arbitrary but are roughly comparable to those used by other scholars and researchers.

The report is divided into four main sections: (1) Outlook and World View, (2) Technology and Lifestyle, (3) Politics and Policy, and (4) Values and Social Issues.