It seems that millennial apathy extends far beyond the vacant voting booth.
According to a recent poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics, millennials have no confidence in eight out of the 10 major societal institutions, including mainstream media and Congress.
The Harvard Youth Poll surveyed 3,034 18- to 29-year-olds between March 18 and April 1, 2015. This poll has been conducted since 1999 in an effort to gauge the political and public service sentiments of America’s youth.
This year’s sentiment can be summed up in the following graphic:
Trust No One
Pervasive sensational journalism has finally taken its toll on reader sentiment: a staggering 88 percent of millennials “sometimes” or “never” trust the press. Coming in second place with 86 percent distrust is Wall Street, followed by Congress at 82 percent.
Both the federal government and the president don’t fare much better, with 74 percent and 63 percent respectively doubting the two institutions’ ability to “do the right thing.” Level of distrust drops slightly when it comes to the Supreme Court and local police, with 42 percent and 49 percent respectively reporting a sense of trust.
The justice system proved controversial, with a 49 percent to 49 percent tie. Results were heavily divided by race.
The only institutions garnering a majority sense of trust were scientists and the military (57 percent and 53 percent respectively). American youth favors scientific research over the media in terms of reporting the truth, and generally supports a U.S.-led military campaign against ISIS.
We understand that putting time and energy into something you have seemingly no impact on feels pointless. We get that it’s easier to simply disregard the issues that feel out of your control.
And we definitely understand why. We were raised in a particularly inhospitable political and economic environment. Between 9/11 and the Great Recession, it seems that the national “safety net” was ripped out from under us long ago. We’d rather rely on ourselves and what we can control.
Although valid, these perspectives inhibit you from seeing the bigger picture. In the words of Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, “[Millennials] watch the same TV shows, listen to the same radio stations, shop at the same places and live in the same neighborhoods as people who believe like they do. Interactions with people with whom they disagree and entities such as Congress or the news media dwindle. Suspicion rises. Distrust becomes pervasive.”
Essentially, you’re only seeing what you want to see. This cultural apathy can be dangerous, especially in the wake of another presidential election. If political participation exists solely within echo chambers, it will be difficult to effect any significant change. As 36 percent of the workforce and 25 percent of the population, our generation’s input matters now more than ever.
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