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Young U.S. Adults Bring New World View to National Problems

By Charlene Porter | Staff Writer | 12 September 2013
Kids with wheelbarrows, tools, pile of sand (AP Images)

Youth service projects have helped U.S. millennials develop social responsibility, as seen at this event at a Colorado park.

Washington — Americans born between 1979 and 1994 are “dramatically different” from generations before them. After more than a decade of study, a prominent U.S. pollster calls this generation the “first globals” because his research reveals that they see and experience the world in such a new way.

First Globals: Understanding, Managing & Unleashing the Potential of Our Millennial Generation by John Zogby and Joan Snyder Kuhl was published in June.

A veteran pollster, John Zogby has spent more than a decade studying the views of this generation of 72 million as reflected in numerous polls conducted over more than a decade. He detected consistent and pronounced tendencies for this generation to express opinions reflecting a larger vision of the world than their elders have had.

One notable difference, Zogby says, is that two-thirds of the people in this age group have passports and have traveled abroad. “Thirty-five percent say that they expect — not hope, or wish — they expect to live and work in a foreign capital at some point in their lives.”

In a related view, Zogby says surveys have found that more than 60 percent of the millennial generation say that fluency in a foreign language is very or somewhat important. Only 3 percent to 5 percent of people in other age groups express that view, the pollster said.

Workplace and economic trends of recent decades have created an accepted wisdom that the generation now in early adulthood will not have the stable careers that their grandparents had. They won’t remain employed by the same company throughout their adult lives, but rather will undergo multiple career shifts.

“There’s a sense of having to be flexible, nimble and mobile in their lives,” Zogby said at a September 10 Washington briefing, “which makes their attitudes and values and behavior patterns so different.”

Zogby suggests these attitudes among the “first globals” emerge from their experiences growing up in a rapidly globalizing world, influenced by international marketing, fashion and entertainment trends.

“They grew up in a world where many different peoples were wearing what they were wearing and sharing what they were sharing,” Zogby said. They have not come to maturity with the belief that people outside their own community, culture or country are to be feared, distrusted or hated. That perception has a profound effect on the views the group will have about the foreign policy decisions their leaders will make.

“This is a group that is the least likely of any age cohort to favor war,” Zogby said, “because whoever the opposite side is, they are no longer ‘The Other.’”

History provides many examples of populations that have been led into war with the belief that “The Other” is subhuman or alien, he said.

Zogby’s research leads him to the belief that members of the millennial generation appreciate the United States, but are not inclined to put their homeland on a level above other nations. “They have a greater appreciation than any other group — and that is growing — of other cultures.”

Another foreign policy viewpoint that these young adults will adopt, the pollster predicts, is support for U.S. engagement in foreign alliances, international partnerships and the United Nations.

As they become the dominant decisionmakers in the future, Zogby foresees this age group making significant changes in U.S. society, bringing a “crowd-sourcing methodology” to problem solving on a national scale.

“I, for one, am very optimistic about our millennials,” Zogby said. He predicts that young adults will be able to bring fresh solutions and new skills to social problems that defied solution within the context of 20th century political alignment, on both a national and global scale.

“This is a group that is very much inculcated in environmental values” from their earliest education, Zogby said. Many call themselves “citizens of Planet Earth,” he said, and bear a sense of global responsibility.