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Rampage

Parallel universes, even among the young

My column from Tuesday delved into the parallel universe that consumers of right-wing media occupy. But the stark divide in world perspective is not confined to left and right; it also exists, of course, between other demographics, including the races.

Reminders of this came recently via three — count ’em, three — separate new polls of millennials, all released this week. Each of them showed striking differences in worldviews by race/ethnicity, all within the same, mostly liberal generation.

First, here’s a finding from GenForward, a survey of the Black Youth Project with the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. One of the survey questions asked respondents to name the top three most important problems facing the country today.


As you can see, the top-cited problem differed dramatically depending on the race/ethnicity of the respondent. Among African Americans, the problem most often named was racism; among Asian Americans, education; Latinos/Latinas, immigration; and whites, terrorism.

Note that whites were the only one of these demographics not to cite racism frequently enough to place it in any of the three top slots.

A second massive millennial poll, from CIRCLE at Tufts University, also found some sharp disagreements in worldview based on race and ethnicity.

For example, the survey asked a series of questions about trust in American institutions such as the media, Congress, state government, political parties, etc. Like Americans more broadly, young people expressed low levels of trust in almost every institution named.

But there were a couple of prominent exceptions, at least among white people: the police and the military.


Source: CIRCLE, October 2016 Millennial Poll.

Among white millennials, at least 6 in 10 “somewhat” or “completely” trust the police and the military. Not so for the other groups. The racial gap for trust in police is particularly large; the share of black millennials who trust the police is about a third the share of white millennials who do.

Note that the only other category shown in this chart that receives majority trust among any demographic was the president, and this was among black respondents only.

Finally, Harvard’s Institute of Politics also released a poll of millennials this week. Among the questions illustrating that young people of different races/ethnicities seem to live in different Americas is this one:


Asked whether they believe that people of their own racial background were under attack in America, 85 percent of black youth said yes; the same was true of 72 percent of Hispanic youth and 45 percent of white youth.

There was, however, at least one metric on which respondents of color were more optimistic than their white counterparts: intergenerational mobility.


Asked whether they believe that, when they are their parents’ ages, they’ll be better or worse off financially than their parents are today, only two sub-groups had a majority of respondents say they’d be better off: black women and Hispanic women. Black men and Hispanic men had the next highest shares, followed finally by white men and white women.

Only about a third of young whites say they expect to be better off financially than their parents. Maybe this explains why whites (including young whites) have been more responsive to a burn-it-at-all-down political messaging during this campaign, on both left and right.

To be sure, it’s not surprising that survey questions would show differences by race or ethnicity of respondent. But given that “millennials” are so often treated as one big homogenous swarm, it can be easy to obscure how large the contrasts are in their views of what ails the country, and people like them.

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We went to the source. Here’s what matters to millennials.
A state-by-state look at where Generation Y stands on the big issues.