"Millennials," amirite? What with their stupid iPhones, and their apps, and their selfies, and their social networks, and their narcissism, and their job-hopping, and their potatoes, and -- well, you get the picture. The millennial hit-piece has practically become a literary genre unto itself.
I'm not here to weigh in on whether the millennial-hate is justified or not. As a person born in the wild demographic borderlands of 1980, neither Gen-Xer nor millennial myself, I wish to remain neutral.
If you do want to hate on millennials, at least do them the credit of hating them for the right reasons. All the derisive talk of selfies and selfishness and Snapchat really amounts to nothing more than an extended "get off my lawn" from an aggrieved class of elders. And there's no need to resort to such measures when there are plenty of good reasons to heap your scorn on the nation's 20-somethings. To wit:
Less than a third of millennials say the United States is the greatest country in the world, according to the Pew Research Center. By contrast, 48 percent of Gen Xers, 50 percent of Boomers, and 64 percent of the Silent Generation said that America is Number 1. And only 70 percent of millennials identified as "patriotic," compared to 80 to 90 percent of people in other generations.
Last year I went to great trouble to put together a collection of charts and maps that prove, indisputably, that America is Number 1 at many different things. What gives, millennials?
When Uncle Steve starts spouting off racist nonsense at the Thanksgiving table you might be inclined to cut him a little tiny bit of slack -- he's a product of a different era, after all. But when Cousin Cooper does the same thing, well, that's a different story.
Data from the General Social Survey shows that "when it comes to explicit prejudice against blacks, non-Hispanic white millennials are not much different than whites belonging to Generation X (born 1965-1980) or Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)," according to our own Scott Clement. "Whatever expectation that millennials' diverse racial makeup would spawn especially tolerant views has not yet come true," he concludes.
Millennials performed the poorest in a recent Pew Research Center study of the public's knowledge of current events. They averaged 7.8 questions right on a 12-question news quiz, less than every other age group. Compared to other generations, millennials were significantly less likely to know which country the United States had just normalized relations with (Cuba), they were considerably less likely to identify a photograph of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and they had a hard time recognizing the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on a map.
Millennials are twice as likely as seniors to say that parents should be able to opt out of giving their kids childhood vaccines. And they are seven times as likely as seniors to believe in the unequivocally discredited link between vaccines and autism. The reason? As the first generation largely spared from the horrors of vaccine-preventable diseases, millennials have no generational memory of a time when hundreds of thousands of children were stricken with these diseases each year. Sadly, it's not millennials but rather their kids who will bear the cost of this forgetfulness.
Just yesterday I reported on a Pew survey showing that 18- to 29-year-olds were the generation least likely to say it's okay for news outlets to publish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. For a substantial proportion of millennials, the right to free speech ends where the right to not be offended begins.
Anyway. What do you think, Wonkblog readers?