May 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Jarring generation gap: America is divided on values, economics, politics

an illustration of two people standing at a gap that is shaped like a speech bubble

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

From values to voting to happiness to economics, America has more than a red-blue divide: It has a massive generational divide.

Why it matters: If you're trying to run a successful organization or sell a product or service, you'd better understand these nuances.

Zoom in: In his Six-Chart Sunday newsletter, Washington strategist Bruce Mehlman spells out startling differences that have emerged between older and younger generations across a striking array of topics:

Values by generation chart
Deck: Public Opinion Strategies

1. Values: Members of Gen Z are less than half as likely than Baby Boomers to say patriotism, belief in God or having children are "very important," according to a recent Public Opinion Strategies polling report, "Key Data by Generation."

  • Another Zoomer casualty: Believing America is the "best place to live."
  • When it comes to religion, millennials and Gen Zers are much more likely to consider themselves atheists, agnostic or "nothing in particular."

2. Economics: Americans 18-29 were more likely to say they have a positive impression of socialism (44% favorable) than capitalism (40%), a 2022 Pew poll found.

  • Just 28% of seniors viewed socialism favorably.

3. Political parties: Millennials and members of Gen Z are twice as likely to consider themselves political independents (52%) as the oldest generation of Americans (26%), according to Gallup data.

  • Mehlman, who writes the "Age of Disruption" Substack, told Axios younger voters are shunning "the two tired parties."
Bar chart showing share of people who say they sympathize more with Israel, Palestine, or both
Reproduced from Pew Research Center

4. The Middle East: Americans under 30 are twice as likely to sympathize with Palestinians than the U.S. population as a whole, according to Pew data from February.

Mehlman told Axios: "I got the idea [for this "Generation Gaps" mashup] when reading a Washington Post story showing the favorite music genres by generation that I ended up not even using!"

  • "I was disappointed that 18 to 29-year-olds were one of the few demographics not loving 'classic rock,' and started a Sunday piece entitled, 'The Kids Are Not Alright.'"

Go deeper: Two more generation-defining trends ... Gift link, "The most popular, obscure, Democratic, Republican and hated music in America."

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