“Millennials” - those Americans 18 to 24 who have come of age during the years of the Great Recession - are more worried about economic inequality than about the racial issues that consumed previous generations, according to major new survey.
The study, released Thursday by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, surveyed 2,013 students from private religious schools and junior colleges to universities and schools without a religious affiliation.
“I think religion is another place where this generation is absolutely going to change the face of the country,” said Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute.
“We have some evidence that, again, they’re not going to certainly return to business as usual or normal patterns when they get children or mortgages,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the case that this group is going to come back and look like their parents 20 years from now.”
According to the study, “College-age millennials demonstrate significantly lower levels of traditional religious affiliation,” with 25 percent claiming to be unaffiliated with a religion.
They are politically more liberal and more racially diverse than previous generations. About 57 percent self-identify as white, 21 percent as Hispanic and 14 percent as black.
Abigail Clauhs, president of the Interfaith Council and a student at Boston University said, “We may have a complicated relationship with religion, but we know how we feel about people.”
The survey found that about 60 percent of millennials think gay marriage and abortion both should be legal.
Thomas Banchoff, director of the Berkley Center, said that while millennials are highly concerned with issues related to tolerance, they “remain divided on issues of race.”
The survey was conducted March 7 to 20. It has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.
The survey found that almost half of all white millennials - 48 percent - think that “reverse discrimination” against whites is a problem, but only 24 percent of blacks agree.
Employment, though, is far and away the highest priority and the greatest concern of millennials: 76 percent of those asked said jobs were “critically important.”
In an age when student loan debt has hit a record high $1 trillion, getting a job to pay off those loans weighs heavily on the minds millennials. About 66 percent said they were either very worried or somewhat worried about finding a satisfying and rewarding career.
But the social issues that defined the American political climate of the past are fading.
While former President George W. Bush, as recently as 2000 and 2004, could count on support from religious-right voters opposed to homosexual marriage, millennials are more likely to feel that government should stay out of issues of “morality.”