A recent report from the Sine Institute of Policy & Politics at American University, exclusively obtained by NPR, provides illuminating insights into the aspirations and concerns of America’s Millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z). This survey, encompassing 1,568 adults aged 18 to 34, reveals a remarkable paradox: while these young adults harbor optimism about their individual futures and envision achieving more significant success than their parents, they concurrently express a sense of pessimism when contemplating the influence of the government and the political system on their lives in the years to come.
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The American Dream is a subject that is dreamy in so many ways as possible. The idea of a perfect world in an idealistic society is far-fetched, yet one that almost every one of us tries to pertain or allegiance to. The American Dream of the young minds of America currently seems to have been shattered by the political fervor of the government. Why was this so?
The Politics of America
The Political system in America is divided into the Republicans and the Democrats. The Republican Party, also known as the GOP (Grand Old Party), and the Democrats, being, well the Democrats. The two political parties with their very different ideologies have dominated the sphere of American Politics for a long time.
The Democratic Party is generally associated with center-left to left-wing policies. It supports a larger role for the government in providing social services, healthcare, and education, and addressing issues like climate change and income inequality.
The Republican Party is generally associated with center-right to right-wing policies. It emphasizes limited government intervention in the economy, lower taxes, and a strong national defense.
The Older Generation
The older generation of America presents the American Dream in a different light. Through Death of a Salesman and Willy Loman’s portrayal of the American Dream and how it shatters the soul of a person from top to bottom, one can see how unrealistic ideologies are set by a society incapable of achieving the means.
Balancing Hope with Skepticism: Young Americans’ Political Disconnect
The report’s findings underscore a substantial gap between the hopeful outlook regarding personal ambitions and the cynicism that permeates their perception of the political landscape. It becomes evident that many young Americans remain politically undecided, demonstrating limited enthusiasm for both President Biden and the pool of Republican presidential candidates as the 2024 election draws nearer.
Envisioning the American Dream: Hope for a Brighter Future
When asked to envisage their American Dream, a majority of young Americans anticipate a life superior to that of previous generations. Their expectations include more extensive educational opportunities, improved job prospects, and the cultivation of stronger personal relationships. This optimism, however, diminishes considerably when they shift their focus to the future of politics.
Doubts About the Political Future: Diminished Confidence in Government
Within the realm of politics, merely a third of the surveyed young adults expect that the government in their generation will be more representative and functional compared to that of their parents. Furthermore, nearly half of the respondents harbor the belief that the political system and the manner in which elected officials are chosen have impeded their progress and aspirations.
The Role of Politicians: Bridging the Gap in Trust
Molly O’Rourke, a senior adviser at the Sine Institute, argues that politicians possess a unique opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust among young voters by addressing the issues that resonate most with them. She emphasizes the fervent desire of young people to have their experiences and concerns acknowledged and addressed by elected leaders.
Obstacles on the Path Forward: Financial Insecurity, Mental Health, and Distrust
Among the significant obstacles faced by young people, financial insecurity, mental health challenges, and a pervasive distrust in government and institutions rank prominently. These challenges align closely with the primary issues that will influence their votes in the upcoming 2024 election, including healthcare, the state of the economy, housing affordability, reproductive rights, climate change, and gun violence.
Issue-Driven Engagement: Priorities Over Party Affiliation
Reed Howard, Vice President of Strategy and Public Affairs at the Millennial Action Project, underscores the notion that specific issues, rather than party affiliation, are the primary drivers of young people’s political engagement and candidate support. He believes that politicians who offer practical solutions and address tangible issues will be more appealing to this demographic.
Uncertainty in 2024: Undecided Youth Voters
As the 2024 primary season edges closer, it is evident that young voters have not yet firmly aligned themselves with any major candidate. President Biden maintains the highest favorability rating among them, but a substantial portion of respondents also hold unfavorable views of his presidency. Conversely, the Republican leading candidates face similarly high unfavorable ratings.
Seeking Alternatives: The Openness of Young Voters
With many young Americans remaining uncertain about their 2024 voting intentions, a third of respondents are torn between supporting the eventual Republican nominee or President Biden. O’Rourke suggests that these findings indicate young voters’ openness to alternatives and their lack of commitment to either political party.
Engaging the Future: The Critical Role of Young Voters
Efforts to engage young voters are underway across the political spectrum, with initiatives such as Vice President Kamala Harris embarking on a multi-state college tour. As Millennials and Gen Z voters continue to grow in influence, their perspectives and priorities will play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of American politics.
The Sine Institute’s report paints a picture of young Americans marked by optimism for their individual futures but disillusionment with the state of politics in the country. Their hopes for a better life are counterbalanced by concerns about the functionality of the government and the political system. This survey underscores the importance of politicians addressing the specific issues that matter most to young voters as they seek to secure their support in the upcoming 2024 election. The political engagement of these generations will undoubtedly shape the future landscape of American politics, making them a crucial demographic for politicians to court and understand.