(Image credit: Katie Kutsko, Pew Research)

(Image credit: Katie Kutsko, Pew Research)

Pope Francis recently said:

“If I find a young person without hope, I’ve said this before, ‘a young retired person.’ There are young people who seem to have retired at 22 years old.” Another laugh moment. “They are young people with existential sadness, they are young people who have committed their lives to a basic defeatism.”

But it turns out that Pope Francis has millennials* wrong. We’re mostly not defeated. We’re mostly disappointed. And optimistic. And we have plans.

Wait. I thought that Millennials were as cynical about government as everyone else!

It turns out not. Organizations like Pew and Indivisible (watch this space in 2016 for unbelievable findings about what Americans think about government and why – and how we plan to change that culture) are studying millennials to find out what’s coming next. What millennials think about government. Our hopes for politics. Our wishes for the future.

And it’s brighter than we thought.

How bright?

Pretty bright. Millennials are optimistic about the future. And so we can be too.

“Young people tend to be the most optimistic, the least angry and openly hostile toward the political system or either of the political parties,” said Michelle Diggles, an analyst with the center-left think thank Third Way. “I think mainly they’re just shaking their head being turned off by some of the antics.”

And for good reason. The antics are exhausting, aren’t they?

But what about reality? Do millennials have a good sense of the reality of what’s working and what isn’t?

We are all about reality.

Millennials are a generation shaped by tragedy and frustration. Coming of age with optimism, we were hit with the tragedy of the September 11th attacks, the Iraq War, and so much more. The Great Recession of 2008 hit our pockets, making it hard to find entry level jobs, pushing us into internships that make it harder to pay off our massive student load dept.

We live in the world.

[Y]oung adults are more likely than older people to say there is strong evidence of climate change and to prioritize the development of alternative energy over expanding the production of fossil fuels.

Not that we’re all acting on it yet. Most of us are not environmentally conscious. As of yet.

You’ll see young voters of all stripes saying the system is broken, and it needs to be fixed, but I think it doesn’t come from the same kind of cultural anxiety place, but rather more from a the system seems so broken, why can’t we enforce laws point of view,” Soltis-Anderson said.

But I thought that Millennials were all narcissistic and self-absorbed?

Really no. Of course, with technology comes the ability to take awesome selfies, and people can not like them. But it turns out there is so much more. Millennials are more connected than any previous generation to each other. And technology helps with that. But reality and real life interactions do too.

Millennials are, of course, highly skeptical of institutions, whether political or religious. So we prefer to find solutions to each problem independently. Ourselves. Usually with technology. Or so says Pew again.

And that’s the problem.  

Actually no. Pew has found that even more than previous generations, millennials “believe government should do more to solve problems.”


More than half of Millennials (53%) say government should do more to solve problems, while 42% say government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.

Pew Government graphic

So millennials really do like government?

By and large. We volunteer at the same rates as older generations, but vote a little less. Which is not great. We get better when we see people we believe in running.  And when issues we care about are discussed.

Like immigration and college costs. Gun deaths and Ferguson.  The minimum wage. The economy.

Millennials are  “not interested in judging others or imposing values on others,” says Kristen Soltis Anderson, a GOP pollster and author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America (And How Republicans Can Keep Up).

And what about Generation Z – the generation after Millennials?

Honestly? It’s so much more so. 26% of Generation Z‘s ages 16-19 are volunteering so they can make an impact. and 38% of them plan to “invent something that changes the world.”

They understand poverty, with 73% of Americans personally affected by the Great Recession. So they have better coping mechanisms and abilities to solve problems. And they’re used to collaborating.

They’re even more optimistic realists, with 80% knowing about human impact on the planet and 78% worried about world hunger and children around the world dying of preventable disease. But 9/10 are optimistic about their future.

That does sound better.

Well, only if we engage. If we all work together to think aspirationally about government.

Millennials (and Generation Z) know that government is our tool to help us solve big problems together. So we have to give millennials the ability to ImagineGov and make our government closer to our aspirations. We have to make it easier to run for office, to get involved personally, to get involved locally. To connect to fantastic projects in other communities so we can replicate them in our own.

We need Indivisible. Luckily, it’s right here.

Reality for the win.

Want more reality in your life?  Join the Indivisible Team now.


* A note. The author is only existentially a members of the millennial generation, as there are so many different definitions, ranging from starts in the mid-70s to the mid-80s. So this article refers to millennials as we. Because we can.

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