Millennials Seek Social Change in Their Everyday Lives, Study Finds

Millennials Seek Social Change in Their Everyday Lives, Study Finds

While millennials remain passionate about creating a better, more inclusive world, they no longer look to traditional institutions to effect that change, a report from Achieve and the Case Foundation finds.

Based on three surveys of millennials conducted in 2016, the final installment (39 pages, PDF) of the 2016 Millennial Impact Report: Cause Engagement During a U.S. Presidential Election Year project found neither an appreciable change in millennials' interests in social causes nor an increase in their cause-related engagement. According to the latest report from the project, while millennials would like to see politics become less divisive and more accommodative of different positions with regard to contentious social issues, they tend to reject the "activist" label and rarely take overt action in support of the causes they say they care about. The report also found that while millennials do make an effort to educate themselves about causes that spark their interest and to share what they learn via social media, they tend to avoid confrontation and won't go out of their way to change someone's mind.

As a rule, the report found, millennials don't have much trust in government to do what's right. Instead, they believe they can only count on themselves to create the change they want to see, and they typically pursue that change as "everyday changemakers," sharing a mindset that influences what they buy, the clothes they wear, and the food they eat. For millennials, doing good is a lifestyle, the norm, and a fundamental part of their identity that is expressed, as often as not, by signing petitions, volunteering for causes, connecting with each other on social media platforms, and acting with their own circles to bring about change.

The study also found that millennials consistently identified education, wages, health care, jobs, and the economy as the areas of most concern to them; that they don't feel any particular loyalty to either political party but instead vote based on which issues they care about and which candidates they believe best speak to those issues; and that they put more faith in themselves than in government to create the kind of change they want to see.

"Millennial engagement with causes and the organizations that serve them is shifting," said Derrick Feldmann, the president of Achieve. "They're moving deep into a change-making and giving lifestyle that's separate from the forms of engagement we're used to. Causes and nonprofits need to find more personal, and personally fulfilling, ways to engage millennials.'

"2016 Millennial Impact Report: Case Engagement During a U.S. Presidential Election Year." Achieve and Case Foundation Report 03/14/2017. Jean Case, Emily Yu. "Millennials, Politics & Causes: The 2016 Millennial Impact Report." Case Foundation Blog Post 03/14/2017. Sasha Blaney. "Research Shows Millennials See Activism in Different Way Than Previous Generations." Achieve Blog Post 03/14/2017.