Despite recession, young people optimistic about future, Pew study finds

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More than one-third of the millennial generation -- the tech-savvy group ages 18 to 29 -- is unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

The nation's young people, the report says, are dour about their predicament but remain optimistic about their futures. Only 19 percent of unemployed millennials say they have enough income to "lead the kind of life they want," the survey found, down from 38 percent four years ago. But about 90 percent of those who are unhappy with their income level believe their fortunes will improve.

"We know that young people tend to be optimistic in the face of tough economic times, but I think it's especially interesting that there's so much optimism considering that there's so much unemployment," said Scott Keeter, a Pew co-editor of the report, "Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change."

The generation, which covers people born from 1980 to the early 2000s, includes about 77 million members, the same number as the baby boomers. The Pew report portrays millennials as a generation with a tendency to delay marriage and shift political beliefs that is passionate about technology.

Despite the millennials' vociferous support for President Obama during the 2008 election, their approval of him has dropped from 73 percent a year ago to 57 percent this month, the survey found.

Millennials are divided over whether Obama has changed Washington's ways for the better, with 48 percent saying he has not and 46 percent saying he has. But millennials don't blame the president for the lack of change: Only 25 percent say "he has not really tried to change things," the report found, and 60 percent blame Obama's opponents and special interest groups for stifling his agenda.

Even though millennials lean politically liberal, their enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is waning, the Pew study found. By the end of last year, 54 percent of the generation identified or leaned toward the Democratic Party, down from a "whopping" 62 percent in 2008, according to the report. Twenty-somethings are disappointed, in particular, by Obama's decision to send more troops into Afghanistan.

The report also says that about 25 percent of millennials are not affiliated with any religion, "far more than the share of older adults when they were in their 20s.".

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