Millennial Research: Fresh Insights!

Two new research reports came out this week that offer more than the usual superficial ‘survey findings’ about Millennials.

These deeper looks at Millennials may reflect the increasing understanding that this cohort matters. Both studies provide a treasure house of new insights and an appreciation of the complexity of describing a whole generation without resorting to platitudes like “They’re connected!”

Here’s a sample to help you understand why you might want to read the full reports:

1. “The Truth About Youth” by McCann WorldGroup

This engaging report (worth reading for the graphic presentation as well as the content) is based on qualitative and quantitative research among 7000 young people around the world. Sixteen motivations provide an organizing framework (i.e., JUSTICE, COCOONING, JOURNEYING, MUSCLE, SURGE, etc.)

Here are some highlights from the report:

“If we want to truly grasp the power of connection for this generation, we can look at how they want to be remembered. It is not for their beauty, their power, or their influence, but simply for the quality of their human relationships and their ability to look after those around them.”

“Once upon a time, teenagers had a small group of friends (typically 4-7 people), and these were often people met through school. Within this group young people could express their individuality, but it was vital that they belonged to the group. However, nowadays things are more complex. Using social media, a typical teenager is likely to manage and maintain multiple, intersecting groups of friends. In this sense, ‘connecting’ to a broader network of friends has replaced the singular need to ‘belong’ to a tight-knit group of friends.”

“In the Social Economy it’s not good enough to simply do something…you have to tell people about it before it becomes real. In other words…”pics or it didn’t happen!””

“The best possible result in social media for young people is when someone else uploads a photograph of you looking cool and then tags you. In this scenario you get all the credit without looking overly vain or full of yourself.”


“The flipside to mass self-expression and connectivity is the ability to continuously measure your own life achievements against those within your network. Never before have young people found it easier to benchmark their successes (or lack of…). As the Social Economy increases its reach, could we find an entire generation impacted by social status anxiety?”

2. “Millennials, Abortion & Religion Survey” by Public Religion Research Institute

Few topics are more sensitive than abortion and gay marriage, but this report manages to handle both with sensitivity and nuance. A broad national sample of 3,000 allows for comparison of Millennial opinions to those of other age groups. The report offers insights as to why they are different, and why they are sometimes, surprisingly, similar to other generations.

Here are some highlights:

“One of the most politically important ways Millennials differ from other cohorts is their attitudes toward gender roles and sexual morality. Millennials strongly support gender equality and rights for gay and lesbian people and generally have more permissive attitudes toward sexuality issues. However, by traditional measure, younger Americans are no more supportive of abortion rights than the general population, despite having demographic characteristics (e.g., less religious) and attitudes on related issues (e.g., gender equality) that are positively correlated with support for legal abortion.”

Nearly equal numbers of Millennials (60%), Americans age 30-49 (58%), and Americans age 50-64 (59%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases…The generational divide on the issue of same sex marriage, in contrast, is nearly linear and dramatic.”

Approximately 7 in 10 Millennials (71%) support this requirement [parental consent for women under the age of 18 for an abortion].” (Note this is higher than the public at large which is 68%)

While Americans [including Millennials] are nearly divided in identifying with the pro-life and pro-choice labels  they have a clear opinion of which label is more socially acceptable. A majority (53%) say it is more acceptable to be pro-choice in America today.. this holds true across most demographic groups including Millennials.”

Encouraging Signs

These two studies give me hope that we are finally getting beyond the negative stereotypes of entitlement, job dissatisfaction, technology addiction and other unproductive avenues of discussion and starting to get to a deeper understanding of this complex generation.  I see a lot of research, and much of it looks the same, in the questions asked and the routine conclusions. I applaud these groups for digging deeper.