Last week, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics released its 26th “Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Towards Politics and Public Service.” Conducting biannually since the spring of 2000, the report polls 18- to 29-year-olds on the hot-button issues of the day, as well as perennial questions about political affiliation and trust in institutions.
Of course, generational surveys are always tricky to interpret, considering the wide variety of opinions an age group covers. It’s a fool’s errand to claim that 31.5 million Millennials all lean one way or another politically. Indeed, the survey reveals that young people are split on most issues at hand.
However, one trend that the surveys have shown over the past few years is a declining faith in institutions. From USA Today:
Millennials’ trust in large institutions like the courts, the police and the media, appears to have passed through its nadir, with faint signs of optimism emerging. Among the six institutions included in the survey, the military ranked highest, at 53%.
Whether Democrat or Republican, most millennials (83%) show no faith in Congress. The majority Republican legislature is failing to address the issues Millennials care most about.
“Millennials are on a completely different page than most politicians in Washington, D.C.,” Della Volpe says. “This is a more cynical generation when it comes to political institutions.”
In total, a majority of respondents expressed faith in only two of the 11 institutions mentioned in the survey (18 percent). By contrast, the Institute’s first survey conducted in spring 2000 found a majority of respondents expressed faith in six of the eight institutions mentioned (75 percent).
The lesson: Millennials are more cynical than other generations.