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Mass shootings have shaped the gen Z worldview more than any other issue

Mass shootings have shaped the gen Z worldview more than any other issue
[Photo: Flickr user Lorie Shaull]

More than three-quarters of young Americans say there’s a lot of corruption in America, and yet only 8% say they pay close attention to national politics.

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A wide-ranging report on the attitudes and values of generation Z, released Wednesday by market research firm Morning Consult, aims to capture “how America’s largest, most diverse, best-educated, and most financially powerful generation will shape the future.” Though the research company defines generation Z as people born between 1997 and 2012, the report focuses on adults aged 18 to 21.

One of the most significant reveals is that gen Z is the most politically disengaged and most distrustful of power of any other demographic cohort. Gen-Zers are notably less trusting of the military and the police than all older adults. The same goes for views of Wall Street and the Supreme Court. A striking exception is Congress, which 47% of gen-Zers trust, compared with just 38% of older adults.

With respect to political beliefs, gen Z is slightly more optimistic about capitalism than millennials, but are equally open to socialism as their older counterparts. While gen Z Republicans are still not generally fond of large government or socialism, many more express positive views about those topics than older generations. Those younger Republicans also care far more about immigration as a threat than climate change or income inequality, which perturb older adults more.

Overall, though, the generation in question is less right-leaning: 15% identify as conservative, and 36% as liberal. Meanwhile, 20% have a favorable view of Trump, contrasted with 64% who view him unfavorably. Healthcare ranks as the most critical political issue, followed by civil rights and the price of education.

While they’re less politically engaged, they’re more socially conscious. More than half (52%) say the Black Lives Matter movement has shaped their worldview, and 41% say the same of the #MeToo movement. Mass shootings ranked as the top issue that has shaped the gen Z worldview, with 65% concerned about the issue.

The age gap between gen Z and older adults is illustrated most clearly in the generation’s views of September 11th: 60% say it shaped their worldview, compared to 76% of older adults. “A defining feature of this generation is that even the oldest members were too young to be fully conscious for the September 11th terrorist attacks,” writes the Morning Consult in its introduction.

Politics aside, the report, which was conducted by surveying 3,022 adults, with an oversampling of 999 people of the targeted age, also touches on media diets, consumer habits, and personal identity. Noteworthy findings include Google ranking as the most-loved brand, followed by Netflix, YouTube, Amazon—and Oreo.

Far fewer gen Zers consume TV news than older adults; for instance, 20% versus 34% older adults tune into CBS News. In contrast, they consume digitally savvy brands like BuzzFeed News, the Daily Mail and Vice Media. Among gen Z, 49% get their news from social media, compared to 17% of older adults.

Feeling American is remarkably less of an identity factor than with older generations: Only 34% said it was very important, compared with 63% of older Americans. They also cared less about sexual orientation and religion as defining characteristics, bumped by factors including career, hobbies, and clothing style.

Still, life goals remain similar to those of older generations. Making money is the top priority, and having a successful career comes a close second. That said, gen-Zers are a tad more keen to become famous, 12% to 7%. Perhaps they’d follow in the footsteps of their favorite influencers: Jeffree Star, the Kardashians, and Beyoncé.

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