Report: Millennials More Endeared to American Ideals Than Symbols

Friday, 04 Jul 2014 05:33 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Young Americans are patriotic, but they are less embracing of such traditional symbols as the flag and are more endeared to many longstanding ideals — including freedom and equality.

The New York Times gleaned these observations from research data collected on American patriotism over the years.

"Older Americans remain remarkably high in their devotion to symbols like the flag, while young citizens are cooler toward Old Glory but express higher support for classic American ideals like equality and opportunity," the report says.

"The patterns suggest the shifts are generational and not driven by stages in the life cycle," the Times report continued. "Past generations have declined only marginally in their nationalism over time — they start out high and mainly remain so.

"But today’s youngest generation begins adulthood with much lower levels of fondness for the symbols of America, and if the past is a guide, there is no reason to expect increases as they age."

The Times looked at generational trends in the American National Election Study (ANES), which began in 1948 and is conducted every four years, and from data by the Pew Research Center.

Perhaps the most telling comparison the Times found was on the issue of equality between millennials and "the Silent Generation" — those born between 1928 and 1945 and who have fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

ANES asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with six statements about equality, the Times reports. One was: "It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others."

Those who agree with the statement are saying that the differences in people's prospects aren't terribly problematic for American society, the Times reports.

But only 28 percent of Americans agreed with that statement in the ANES; 21 percent neither agreed nor disagreed, while half thought it was a major problem that some people get more of a chance in life than others, according to the Times analysis.

"The difference between millennials and the Silent Generation on this question is 20 points," the report said. "While 42 percent of the older generation thinks unequal chances in life are not a big problem, only 20 percent of millennials do.

"As for the reverse, only 37 percent of the Silent Generation think unequal chances are a big problem compared to 57 percent of young people," the Times said.

The analysis concluded that "millennials have more appetite for egalitarian principles than older people. They may look less patriotic than the rest of America at first glance, but coming of age in the era of globalization and being a more racially diverse generation may simply mean that traditional symbols of American democracy hold less meaning for this cohort.

"Milliennials may be less devoted to the symbols of America," the Times reports, "but they are no less devoted to democratic ideals."

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