How Do Different Generations Perceive Key US Institutions?

January 6, 2016

Pew-Generational-Views-Key-Institutions-Jan2016In some cases, there are marked variations in the views that American generations have of key institutions in the US, according to a new survey analysis from the Pew Research Center. For example, Millennials (86%) are considerably more likely than members of the Silent Generation (66%) to see small business as having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country today.

Interestingly, Millennials’ views on small business’ positive effect have improved substantially this decade, up 15% points since 2010.

There’s less variation between the youngest and oldest generations when examining views of large corporations. Only a minority of Millennials (38%) and Silents (31%) feel that these corporations have a positive impact, though both are up by 10% points from 2010. Boomers are the most critical of large corporations, with only about one-quarter (27%) feeling that they have a positive contribution to society.

Besides small and large corporations, Millennials are the most positive towards labor unions (by a 2:1 margin over Silents) and financial institutions, though the older generations (Boomers and Silents) show the largest improvement in perception of these institutions this decade. That’s particularly the case banks and financial institutions, which have grown from 14% positive perception among Boomers in 2010 to 37% this past year (the survey was fielded in late 2015).

What does research say about marketing financial services to Millennials? Find out here.

Meanwhile, although the technology industry excels in its general reputation, there are also age-related discrepancies at play with respect to technology companies. Millennials are the most likely to view technology companies in a positive light (77%), while a smaller majority of Silents (59%) see technology companies as having a positive impact. This age-related gap in the perception of technology’s contribution to society also appeared in a recent Harris Poll. In that survey, Millennials were the most likely to say that technology has positively impacted the overall quality of their lives and enhanced their social lives, while Boomers were the most likely to say that technology is creating a lazy society and corrupting interpersonal communications.

In other notable results:

  • Fewer than 4 in 10 adults feel that the entertainment industry is having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country today, with Millennials (39%) the most positive and Silents (23%) the most critical;
  • Millennials’ views of the national news media have declined considerably from 2010, down 13% points to 27%, aligning with a general decline in trust placed in mass media recently found by Gallup;
  • Millennials’ views of the positive contribution of churches and religious organizations has tumbled by 18% points since 2010 to 55%, the lowest percentage of any generation; and
  • Millennials (73%) are considerably more likely than Silents (51%) to see a positive societal contribution from colleges and universities.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center survey was conducted from August 27 to October 4, 2015.

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