Millennials Increasing, Intensifying Cause Engagement, Report Finds

Millennials' interest in social issues and engagement with causes has intensified since the 2016 presidential election, a report from Achieve and the Case Foundation finds.

Based on interviews and focus groups, The 2017 Millennial Impact Report Phase 1: Millennial Dialogue on the Landscape of Cause Engagement and Social Issues (16 pages, PDF), the first of three installments of the annual study, found that millennials were more politically active and eager to address social issues locally post-election than pre-election. The millennials interviewed also said they had upped their level of engagement — for example, giving and volunteering more, marching in demonstrations, and calling their representatives — and had a sense of responsibility, on behalf of all Americans, to increase their engagement with causes and efforts to help others, including those to whom they have no personal connection.

The qualitative study found that millennials didn't share a consistent definition of "cause" or "social issue" beyond a general understanding of the former as an action-oriented solution to a social problem and the latter as a broader concept that often includes a political component. The study also found that while interviewees typically had some personal connection to the issues they cared about, their interest in far-reaching social issues drove their cause engagement regardless of personal connection. The millennials interviewed were most interested in causes that promote equity, equality, and opportunity for marginalized or disenfranchised individuals or groups, including underserved children, immigrants, and the elderly, as well as in areas threatened with cuts in government support, including public education, healthcare reform, and women’s reproductive health.

A previous report released in March, the 2016 Millennial Impact Report: Cause Engagement During a U.S. Presidential Election Year, noted that millennials tend to reject the label "activist" even when they were actively engaged in causes, while the latest report found that they view themselves more as "advocates" or "allies."

Phase two of the study will examine millennials' attitudes toward and perceptions of various social issues, their engagement with those issues, and the rationale driving that engagement, while phrase three will comprise an ethnographic study of patterns in cause engagement within culture-sharing groups.