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Survey: Led By Millennials, Americans Value Patriotism, God, Children Less Than Ever

According to a new national survey from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, younger Americans' core values differ sharply from their countrymen of earlier generations.  While some similarities on key fronts remain intact, dramatic gaps have opened up on the questions of patriotism, belief in God, and the importance of having children.  This chart tracks the percentages of Americans who say the following issue sets are "very important:"


Some 61% in the new survey cited patriotism as very important to them, down 9 percentage points from 1998, while 50% cited religion, down 12 points. Some 43% placed a high value on having children, down 16 points from 1998.

As you can see, large super-majorities of Americans aged 39-91 prize patriotism, while just over 40 percent of Millennials say the same.  A super-majority of Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation say religion and a belief in God is a high-priority value, along with a majority of X-ers.  Less than one-third of younger Americans agree.  Millennials are also the least likely generation to say having children is very important to them, scoring roughly ten percentage points lower than X-ers on this question, and approximately 20 points lower than Boomers and up.  Pew Research notes that Millennials "are projected to surpass Baby Boomers next year as the United States’ largest living adult generation, [and] are also approaching the Boomers in their share of the American electorate."  

Suffice it to say that the impact on American culture and politics will be profound when these rising generations take the helm; the numbers quoted above aren't static, of course, but it's a safe bet that America's future will less confident in (and enthusiastic about) our country, and far less religious -- with a population potentially in literal decline.  Call me old fashioned, but a populace that will value America, God and children markedly less as time passes does not fill me with great optimism and hope.  I fear that a society that is less patriotic, significantly more secular, and less interested in procreation will be unhealthier, overall.  This is among my worries:


On a slightly sunnier side, majorities of all four generations polled cite community involvement as critical, with supermajorities placing a strong emphasis on tolerance for others (one can only hope this includes tolerance for the discussion of dissenting ideas).  Literally the only value listed that attained 'very important' status among eighty-plus percent of all age demographics is hard work.  Finally, this nugget from the survey is interesting:

Generational differences on personal values were most pronounced among Democrats. In fact, the views of Democrats over age 50 were more in line with those of younger Republicans than with younger members of their own party.

Older Democrats tend to embrace an older-school view of American values, evidently giving them more in common with younger right-leaning people than with young leftists. One wonders which bonds will prove stronger in, say, 15 years: Partisan tribalism, under which older Democrats will succumb to a much more radical party (we are already seeing this shift today), or broader shared values?  Might a coalition of conservatives, moderates and disaffected Democrats form to combat an increasingly harder-edged Left?  It's conceivable, but both major parties seem to be undergoing identity crises at the moment, fueled by negative partisanship.  They know who they detest, but they're not sure how best to proactively govern.  


Parting thought: If a representative sample of Americans who participated in this poll were gathered in one place for a focus group, would the various generations' definitions of patriotism or hard work even align?  

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