A Portrait of Generation Next

The Pew Research Center released their latest study on “How young people view their lives, futures and politics.” The young people, ages 18-25, represent “Generation Next.”

The results further the idea that our society is heading in the right direction.

What does the study (PDF) say?

One-in-five members of Generation Next say they have no religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic, nearly double the proportion of young people who said that in the late 1980s. And just 4% of Gen Nexters say people in their generation view becoming more spiritual as their most important goal in life.

One-in-five… That’s 20%! (Thank you, college education.)

It’s certainly the highest percentage of non-religious people in any age bracket I’ve heard of in a study.

What else do we know about the religious lives of Gen Next?

Gen Nexters are among the least likely to attend church regularly: 32% attend at least once a week compared with 40% of those over age 25, and 16% say they never attend (compared with 12% among the older age groups).

I would like to say that my habit of sometimes going to three church services a week this past year may have skewed the data.

There is a clear generational divide on the issue of evolution. Nearly two-thirds of Nexters (63%) believe humans and other living things evolved over time, while only 33% say all living creatures have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

Oh boy, Science education is finally winning the battle over… Science education!

If these numbers hold as Gen Next gets older, it will signify a step away from superstition and spirituality and a step toward more rational thinking in our everyday lives.

Do you want more good news?

The population as a whole has become more tolerant on racial issues. In the late 1980s, only 44% of white Americans agreed with the statement, “I think it’s all right for blacks and whites to date each other.” By 2003, 72% agreed with this statement.

In 2002-2003, 89% of white 18-25 year-olds agreed that it is okay for blacks and whites to date each other, compared with 70% among those over age 25. Furthermore, 64% of young whites completely agreed with this statement; just 36% of older whites did so.

This is good news, but is anyone else disturbed by the fact that 11% of white Gen Nexters still don’t agree with interracial dating? (10% said they disagreed and 1% said they didn’t know how they feel.)

Fully 71% of 18-25 year-olds rejected the idea that school boards should be able to fire known homosexuals. This compared with 59% of those over the age of 25.

Gen Nexters also are more accepting of homosexuality generally. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) say homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society. This compares with 50% of those over age 25.

Nearly half of Gen Nexters (47%) favor gay marriage, and 46% are opposed to it. Among those over age 25, only 30% favor gay marriage while 64% are opposed.

61% of us Gen Nexters also favor gay adoption.

And I’m sure you can guess the political trajectory here…

In Pew surveys in 2006, nearly half of young people (48%) identified more with the Democratic Party, while just 35% affiliated more with the GOP. This makes Generation Next the least Republican generation.

The future is in good hands… well, at least in better hands than the generation before it.

[tags]Pew Research Center, Generation Next, atheist, atheism, agnostic, Christian, church, evolution, superstition, spirituality, racial issues, interracial dating, blacks, whites, homosexuals, homosexuality, gay marriage, Democrat, Republican[/tags]

  • Victor Bogado

    Not trying to rain on your parade, but many generations had this forward thinking in their youth days and then turn to be a backward thinkers as they grow into the responsibilities of the so called “adult life”.

    Sure it is good that so many people on this “generation next” think like that, and this could mean that afterwards a greater percentage of those will be faithful to those forward thinking but be sure that many will turn into your worst nightmare, so it may be too soon to celebrate yet.

  • http://gustavonarea.name Gustavo

    Whoa, I found this surprising.

    When I think of us Americans (from Canada down to Argentine) in this context, what comes to my mind are societies driven by catholicism (to different extents), specially the USA. Which contrasts with the way I see Western Europe (excluding at least Portugal, Spain and Italy), for example.

    I believe something similar is happening in Venezuela (where I come from) and Spain (where I live in) lately. These are two nations traditionally catholic, but I think that maybe most of the people I know (under 25) consider themselves atheist or agnostic.

    I hope this will be happening in many more countries, whatever the dominant theistic religion(s).

    Thanks for spreading the good news!