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Survey: Generation of 18- to 24-year-olds Less Religious, Political

National Survey

Georgetown's Millennial Values Scholars, from left, Aamir Hussain (C'14), Colin Steele (SFS'12) and Clara Gustafson (SFS'13). The scholars were three of 16 student leaders from around the country chosen to lead a national Campus Conversation on Values.

April 19, 2012 – College-aged “Millennials” are a racially and ethnically diverse generation that is less religious and politically motivated than the general public, according to a new survey released today at Georgetown.

But the survey also shows that President Obama has a 7-point lead over any Republican candidate among 18- to 24-year olds.

“Millennials are a particularly important constituency,” says Berkley Center Director Tom Banchoff. “Their energy and enthusiasm can have a disproportionate impact on the outcome of the election.”

The survey is a joint effort of the university’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Public Religion Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization conducting research at the intersection of religion, values and public life.

Politics and Religion

The survey shows President Obama has a 48-percent lead over a Republican candidate’s 41 percent among Millennial voters.

But 11 percent of respondents say they are not sure or would like to see a third-party candidate win the election.

And while Republican Millennials favor Mitt Romney over Ron Paul or others (34 percent versus 30 percent), President Obama holds a considerable advantage over Mitt Romney when it comes to excitement about his candidacy — 72 percent of Obama supporters say that they would be excited to cast a vote for him, versus 54 percent of Romney supporters for the former Massachusetts governor.

Jobs and Unemployment

While Millennials are strongly supportive of efforts to reduce economic inequality, they also have concerns about reverse discrimination and over-reliance on government social programs.

The survey, supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, questioned more than 2,000 young people.

The majority of them cited jobs and unemployment as the most critical issue facing the country (76 percent), with the federal deficit (55 percent) and education (54 percent) also cited as prominent concerns.

Conversation on Values

The survey is part of a larger effort by the Berkley Center to increase understanding of the values and issues important to younger people prior to the presidential election in November.

Sixteen student leaders from around the country, including three Georgetown students, have been selected by the center as Millennial Values Fellows.

These students are leading a national Campus Conversation on Values about key issues such as educational opportunity and the connection between personal values and public life.

The group is meeting on campus today and tomorrow, when they will take part in the survey launch, a panel discussion with authors Joshua Foer and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts and other activities.

Jim Wallis, the progressive evangelical Christian founder of the D.C.-based Sojourners community and editor of its magazine will also be part of the panel discussion.

Continuing Conversation

Banchoff says that one of the main goals of the fellowship is to “provide Millennials with a forum for thoughtful discussion about their values and America’s future.”

The Campus Conversation on Values will continue online through the summer, and a second survey is planned for the fall in the weeks before the election.

“This is a critical time for our country and for young people,” Banchoff says.

“Discussion about faith and values needs to rise above partisan politics in order to solve many important issues facing the country today and Millennials have a key role to play.”

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