What’s a Millennial? Don’t Ask Pew.

According to a Pew Research Poll, I’m not a Millennial. Well, not completely. Instead, the “experts” at Pew have determined that I am only 70% Millennial. Yup, the author of “The Millennial in the Middle” blog is only about two-thirds Millennial. What is the other third of myself comprised of? Who knows. Am I a mutant? An Impostor?  You see, it used to be well known that a “Millennial” was any person born roughly between 1980 and 2000. I was born in 1985 – clearly within the required time frame. Unless there’s something my parents haven’t told me…

The problem with the Pew Poll is that they amalgamate the “Generational” definition of Millennials with the stereotypical perception of members of the Millennial generation. Having been born within the generational timeline of 1980-2000 is only a prerequisite for Pew. That is, you’re not truly a Millennial unless you also fall within the qualifiers their poll provides. Here are some of the ridiculous questions they ask to determine “how Millennial” you are:

“In the past 24 hours, did you watch more than an hour of television programming, or not?”

According to Pew, the more you sit on your butt and watch TV = the more Millennial you are. An hour of TV isn’t all that much, which actually goes to the inconsistency of the of the question. I.e., if you ask a member of GenX if they have watched an hour or more of TV in the last 24 hours, they would probably answer “yes” more often than not. Here, Pew is supporting the stereotype that Millennials are far more concerned with entertainment and self-indulgence than other efforts. Yes, many (most) in our generation watch an hour of TV in a 24 hour period. But that’s normal, even for older generations.

“In the past 24 hours, did you play video games, or not?”  

Trust me, I understand that if someone plays way too many video games, it can turn their brain to a hot pile of goo. But some video games in moderation isn’t all bad.
But look at the question a little closer: Did you play a video game, at all, within the last 24 hours? If you played Angry Birds for 5 minutes at lunch, the answer is technically “yes.” The problem is that by answering yes, you get lumped into the group that feeds the stereotype of unproductive, lazy Millennials playing video games for hours on end. Some do. Many don’t. This question is junk.

“How important is being successful in a high-paying career or profession to you personally?”

What does this have to do with being a Millennial? Who doesn’t want to be successful and make a ton of money? No one that I know. Pew thinks that the more important being successful in a high-paying career is to you, the more Millennial you are. The suggestion is that when you put this question together with other questions in the poll, it attempts to show that Millennials are concerned with being successful but unwilling to make sacrifices with their TV/Video game time to do anything about it. For the most part, I don’t think that’s true. Most Millennials that I know and know about are motivated and ambitious. They have dreams, and aren’t afraid to go after them.

“How important is living a very religious life to you personally?”

Answer “not at all,” and you are considered more “Millennial” than anyone who considers living a religious life “somewhat important,” or “very important but not the most.” Heaven forbid you answer “one of the most important things.” (Apologies for the bad pun).

I’m picky when it comes to words and phrases. What, exactly, constitutes “living a very religious life?” Does it mean going to church on Sunday? Does it mean praying to God on a daily basis? Reading Scripture? All of the above? I know what it means to me personally, but what does it mean to the Millennial Generation generally? In truth, data shows that Millennials are very spiritual. The majority of Millennials pray often, and consider it important to have a relationship with God. In fact, many if not most Millennials crave spirituality. Among Christians, 68% of Millennials believe that Jesus speaks to them in a personal and relevant way, and 65% believe that the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life.

This question is nuanced and complicated, and really does nothing to help judge the spirituality or religiousness of the Millennial Generation. It is, therefore, junk.

“Do you have a piercing in a place other than your earlobe, or not?”

In case you haven’t guessed, the more piercings you have, the more “Millennial” Pew thinks you are. The last time I saw a Millennial with a nose, tongue or eyebrow ring was…

I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

“In general, would you describe your political views as… (1) Conservative; (2) Moderate; (3) Liberal” 

Pew says that the more liberal you are, the more Millennial you are. Pew is dumb.

Millennials are not that liberal. 59% of Millennials, according to the NBC poll, consider themselves moderate. However, if you choose “(2) Moderate” as an answer in the pew poll, you are in fact less Millennial than other Millennials. The opposite is more likely to be true.

Let’s be honest: The Millennial generation is like a well-tossed salad. We are all different, with differing views, opinions, ethics, and ambitions. The biggest problem with this Pew poll is that the “experts” are trying to paint all Millennials with avery broad brush. Doing so creates the perception that all Millennials are lazy TV-obsessed left-wing tattooed atheist gamers with piercings.

The millions of Millennials who don’t want to be cast to fit this mold are facing an up-stream swim in a raging river of vague, stereotypical information thanks to Pew and others like them. Let’s stop the stereotypes, shall we?


2 thoughts on “What’s a Millennial? Don’t Ask Pew.

  1. Pew’s questions are ridiculous. The “high-paying career” question especially irks me since many studies have established that millennials rank “meaning” as the top factor (or top three, depending on the study) in a successful career that they want, and that they rank “meaningful work” higher than older generations. Uh, Pew, do your research!

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