Millennials Come of Age: Optimistic, Independent, Diverse and Digital

Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images

People take ‘selfies’ in front of a painting by British street artist Banksy on Oct. 24, 2013 in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City.

The millennials have come of age.

And these are not your father’s voters.

Fully half of those people now ranging in age from 18 to 33 consider themselves politically independent and “are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion,” the Pew Research Center reports. At the same time, they vote “heavily Democratic” and believe in same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana and an activist government.

They are linked by social media – more than half have posted a “selfie” at a site, they are “burdened by debt,” distrustful of others and “in no rush to marry.” (Just one quarter are married, compared with two-thirds of the “silent generation” who were married at this stage of their lives and 48 percent of the “Baby Boomers” now bounding into retirement.)

Just six percent of them believe the safety nets of Social Security and the like will be there for them when they retire, Pew’s Paul Taylor noted today in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Yet for all this, Pew says, they are “optimistic about the future.”

This also is America’s most racially diverse generation: 43 percent are non-white. (The Census Bureau projects that a majority of the U.S. population will be non-white sometime around 2043.)

They are “at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics,” Pew notes.

The political implications of this generation now of voting age are clear. Taylor, a vice president at Pew, has published a book about it entitled “The Net America.” They could be putting the change in “hope and change.”

How good is this new Taylor/Pew demography book? No Member of Congress should get next paycheck until they read it: http://t.co/DeYlD89VFB

— mike murphy (@murphymike) March 3, 2014

The report is based on a Pew survey conducted Feb. 14-23 of 1,821 adults nationwide, including 617 millennial adults, and analysis of other Pew surveys conducted since 1990.

See the full report here.

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