Generation Gap Wider Than Ever Before

When I’m at my parents’ house, we watch the evening news. A lot of it. Every single night my parents watch the Nightly News with Brian Williams and then the Evening News with Katie Couric…then in the morning, they watch the Today Show. They do this despite the fact that all the programs run the same stories (usually with the same interviews) and despite the news seeming really really old to me – given that I pretty much saw it all on the Huffington Post or other favorite sites of mine earlier in the day.

Of course, this is nothing new. We all know there is a major generation gap when it comes to news, technology, social media, etc. But, today The Pew Research Center released a new report indicating the generation gap is wider than ever before – especially as it relates to politics and religion/morality. Here are some highlights from the report you should consider as you develop your next consumer campaign.

Almost eight in 10 people believe there is a major difference in the point of view of younger people and older people today. That is the highest spread since 1969, when about 74 percent reported major differences in an era of generational conflicts over the Vietnam War and civil and women’s rights. In contrast, just 60 percent in 1979 saw a generation gap.

Asked to identify where older and younger people differ most, 47 percent said social values and morality. People age 18 to 29 were more likely to report disagreements over lifestyle, views on family, relationships and dating, while older people cited differences in a sense of entitlement. Those in the middle-age groups also often pointed to a difference in manners.

Religion is a far bigger part of the lives of older adults. About two-thirds of people 65 and older said religion is very important to them, compared with just over half of those 30 to 49 and 44 percent of people 18 to 29.

In addition, among adults 65 and older, one-third said religion has grown more important to them over the course of their lives, while 4 percent said it has become less important and 60 percent said it has stayed the same.

Generation Next, which is also referred to as Generation Y (born in 1977 or later), expresses more liberal views in a number of areas when compared with older age cohorts . Gen Nexters have much more positive attitudes about government — they are more likely to see government as effective and efficient.

This also is a generation that is far more supportive than older age cohorts of ensuring equal opportunity for all citizens. For instance, those younger than 30 are far more likely than older people to say that every possible effort should be made to improve the position of blacks and other minorities “even if it means giving them preferential treatment.”

The values survey finds that young Americans are far less conservative on traditional and social values — including attitudes toward homosexuality, women’s roles, censorship, and whether there are clear guidelines about good and evil. And the youngest generation’s level of religious commitment is currently lower than any other age cohort’s.

This generation also now stands out for being less supportive of an assertive approach to national security. In fact, the proportion of young people who favor an assertive national security policy has fallen in the last two years — the only age cohort where this is the case. Among the three older age groups, support for an assertive approach has increased since 2007.

However, it is important to note that the attitudes of young adults are not uniformly liberal. In the current values survey, young people are not significantly more supportive of the social safety net than are older Americans. In addition, they are about as likely to express pro-business attitudes — and are no more likely to support environmental protection — than those in older age cohorts.

The values survey also includes evidence of increased political engagement among young people in the aftermath of the election. However, they still rate lower than older Americans in interest in politics and in the proportion completely agreeing that it is their duty to always vote. A majority (62%) of young people completely agrees that “it’s my duty to always vote,” a 14-point increase from 2007.

70% of those younger than 30 say they use social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook or Twitter — by far the largest proportion of any age group. Perhaps not surprisingly, young people also are far less troubled by the sharing of personal information on the internet than are older Americans.

More than six-in-ten (62%) of those younger than 30 say that it is a good thing that the internet makes it possible for people to share pictures and other personal things about themselves; a plurality of those ages 30 to 49 (48%) also have a positive view of online sharing of personal information. Far fewer of those in older age groups — including just 19% of those 65 and older — agree.

As you write your media pitches and build out your social media campaigns, I suggest you spend some time on the Pew site which is wisely branding itself “for the people and the press.” There you will find a wealth of consumer insights knowledge that will help you connect with your target audiences by tying in to the issues that most concern them.

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