Millennials Genuinely Think They Can Change The World And Their Communities

Far from the jaded, disconnected image you might have of them, 18- to 30-year-olds have a bright view of the future, and are willing to work to make the world better.

Millennials Genuinely Think They Can Change The World And Their Communities
Flickr user Alex Barth

Young people in the U.S. care less about the environment and are more optimistic than their counterparts in other countries. They’re more concerned about the economy than anything else, but they still believe their quality of life is better than their parents’ generation. And through it all, the vast majority believe they can make a difference in their local communities.


This is all according to a survey of 12,000 millennials in 27 countries (ages 18 to 30) from Telefónica that probed respondents on their feelings about technology, education, personal freedom, and more. The overarching message: this generation has a lot of hope, in spite of the many global crises staring them down.

“I have this image of people between 18 and 30 years old as isolated from the world, not having relationships with each other. I was surprised to see how they see themselves as really integrated in the world, in their own communities,” says Alfredo Timermans, CEO of Telefónica International, U.S.A.

The study looked in detail at millennials all over the world: North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and Africa. Here are some of the highlights.

  • American millennials are worried about the effects of globalization; 58% believe that globalization only generates opportunities for select individuals. And 76% think outsourcing is bad for the U.S. economy.
  • Millennials all over the world can agree on the value of technology: 83% think technology has made it easier to get a job, and 87% say that technology has made it easier to overcome barriers. At the same time, however, 62% think technology has widened the gap between rich and poor.
  • In most of the world, millennials are more concerned about the economy than all other issues. But in the U.S. they’re the most concerned: 46% of respondents think the economy is the most pressing issue, while 12% think education is the biggest problem. In Western Europe, people are concerned about the economy (34%) and social inequality (15%). In the Middle East and Africa, respondents are most worried about terrorism (19%) and political unrest (13%).
  • Here’s something else millennials can agree on: problems with government. In every region surveyed, most respondents said that the government doesn’t reflect their values and beliefs.
  • Overall, millennials believe the best way to make a difference in the world is to improve education, followed by protecting the environment and eliminating poverty.
  • An impressive 62% of respondents believe they can make a local difference, and 40% think they can make a global difference. But in most of the world–outside parts of Europe and Asia–the majority of millennials believe they can make a global difference.

“There’s a sense of optimism about this young generation. We are really optimistic about the values of society in the future, the ability to be making a difference in the rest of the world,” says Timermans.

Check out the full survey here.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more