Young activists create a new ‘generation gap’

March 27, 2018

“Never trust anyone over the age of 30.” That famous quote—attributed variously to Bob Dylan, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and The Beatles—epitomized the attitude of the alienated Baby Boomer generation in the 1960s. Now, their mantle has been taken up by today’s young Americans, ages 18 to 29, who proclaimed on March 24 at their March for Our Lives demonstrations nationwide that their generation would change the world .

Like the Boomers before them, they are sparking controversy and driving action—as well as creating a new “generation gap”—based on answers of 2,206 U.S. residents to a CBS News poll, conducted by YouGov  and released on March 25.

The researchers determined that many Americans—in particular, the vast majority of older conservatives—say they look at the younger generation and feel pessimistic about the country’s future. Meanwhile Americans under 30 look at the older generation with the attitude that their elders will leave the country in worse shape than they found it.

Asked if there is a generation gap today, 81% of respondents polled said yes, while 19% said no. Of those ages 18 to 24, 89% said yes and 11% said no. Of those ages 25 to 29, 82% said yes and 18% said no. Of those ages 30 to 50, 79% said yes and 21% said no. And of those over age 50, 80% said yes and 20% said no.

However, by nearly a two-to-one margin, Americans are more supportive than opposed to the young people taking part in marches and speaking out on guns and safety. In general, Americans of all ages say young people organizing is healthy for democracy.

And they believe in themselves: Among Americans ages 18 to 29, 51% say their generation can change the world; 38% say they already are changing the world; and 11% said they can’t change the world.

Why are young people marching? Just over 50% of Americans say it’s just about gun policy, while nearly as many say it’s also about having more of a say in politics.

And most Americans—across all ages and the partisan spectrum—think mass shootings are something that can be prevented. Just 25% say they are something we just have to accept as part of living in a free society.

In total, 73% of those questioned think such shootings can be prevented, while 27% of respondents say they have to accept such events.

Among Republicans, 64% say they can be prevented and 36% say they have to be accepted. Among Democrats, 85% say they can be prevented and 15% say they must be accepted. And among Independents, 72% percent say they can be prevented and 28% say they have to be accepted.

Research contact: @caitlinconant

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