- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008

Popular culture would have us believe that anyone under 30 is a cynical brat or a self-absorbed sluggard, intent on hedonistic impulses alone.

But that’s a myth, at least according to J. Walter Thompson, the nation’s largest advertising agency.

Thompson has plumbed the consciousness of the so-called “millennials” — those between 21 and 29 — to reveal a generation brimming with adultlike respect for American institutions, family values and work ethics, despite a few quirks.

Among the findings: 94 percent said they respect monogamy and parenthood, while 84 percent revere marriage. Eighty-eight percent respect the U.S. Constitution, 84 percent respect the military and more than three-fourths believed in the proverbial “American dream.” Fewer than one in four, however, said they have any admiration for Hollywood.

“We were completely surprised. There has been a faulty portrayal of millennials by the media — television, films, news, blogs, everything. These people are not the self-entitled, coddled slackers they’re made out to be. Misnomers and myths about them are all over the place,” said Ann Mack, who directed the survey and is the official “director of trend-spotting” at the agency.

“Their opinions of monogamy and marriage are products of the era they grew up in, a reaction against a reality-TV world or their unstable childhoods. They are more traditional in their views because they want something better for their own families,” Ms. Mack said.

The research revealed few millennials are “boomerang kids” who sponge off parents after leaving college.

“Just 15 percent lived with their parents, 25 percent lived with their spouse and child(ren), 19 percent with a partner, 18 percent with their spouse, 15 percent alone and 8 percent with a roommate,” the study said.

The group is not sitting home watching soap operas, either. The survey found that more than three-quarters were employed full time, with an additional 19 percent employed part time. Two-thirds agreed that a “formal appearance” at work is important, with an equal number agreeing that employees owe their company loyalty.

But the workplace was open to interpretation. A minority — 46 percent — said they felt obligated to adapt to the workplace environment. Most thought the workplace “should adapt to me.” They also crave some amusement at the office.

“Millennials were more likely to put ‘fun and stimulation’ in their top five ideal job requirements than thirtysomethings, fortysomethings and 50-plus group,” the research said.

In the civic arena, those under 30 had positive opinions: Two-thirds respect both the American legal and financial systems, while 54 percent respect the federal government. Though President Bush’s favorability ratings may linger at 30 percent, the younger generation still values the office — 51 percent said they respect the presidency itself.

“The respect for bedrock American institutions is incredibly interesting. Perhaps this generation is still too young to be jaded by bureaucracy or politics,” Ms. Mack observed.

The survey of 1,250 adults was conducted online throughout January.

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