Study: Millennials Less Trusting Than Gen X Was

Martha Irvine, MSN, September 4, 2014

They’re often pegged as the civic-minded, do-gooding generation. But while they’re still optimistic about their own personal prospects, a new study finds that today’s youth are often more skeptical of the country’s institutions than the young generations that preceded them.

The Millennials also are as mistrusting of other people as the gloomy “slackers” of Generation X were 20 years ago–or even more so.

Jean Twenge, lead author of the study that will be published early this month in the online edition of the journal Psychological Science, says the current atmosphere–fed by the Great Recession, mass shootings, and everything from church sex abuse scandals and racial strife to the endless parade of publicly shamed politicians, athletes and celebrities–may help explain why this young generation’s trust levels hit an all-time low in 2012, the most recent data available.

In the mid-1970s, when baby boomers were coming of age, about a third of high school seniors agreed that “most people can be trusted.”

That dropped to 18 percent in the early 1990s for Gen Xers–and then, in 2012, to just 16 percent of Millennials.

The researchers also found that Millennials’ approval of major institutions–from Congress and corporations to the news media and educational and religious institutions–dropped more sharply than other generations in the decade that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Young people today feel disconnected and alienated,” says Twenge, who wrote the book Generation Me, which examines the attitudes of today’s youth. She finds these outcomes “especially distressing” for a generation that had been expected to be more trusting of government.


Twenge and her co-authors at the University of Georgia based their study’s findings on data from two major long-standing surveys of Americans–the General Social Survey and the University of Michigan’s annual “Monitoring the Future” survey of 12th graders, with nearly 140,000 participants in total.

While Americans of all ages had growing trust issues in recent years, the researchers found that young people’s trust dropped more steeply in several categories.

For instance, in 2000-2002, 49 percent of 12th graders who were surveyed said Congress was doing a “good” or “very good” job, compared with just 22 percent who said the same in 2010-12. Thirty percent of young boomers were approving in the mid-1970s, and 33 percent of Gen Xers in early 1990s.


In 2000-2002, 54 percent of 12th graders approved of the job large corporations were doing. That fell to 33 percent by 2010-12. Forty percent of boomers approved in the mid-1970s, and 48 percent of Gen Xers in the early 1990s.

During that decade, Millennials also had notable drops in approval of colleges and universities, the news media, public schools and religious institutions.

Because the study found that people of all age groups have trust and confidence issues, Twenge notes that the results are more likely tied to current events than the generation itself.

Last year, an AP-GfK poll also found that only a third of all Americans said they trusted most people, compared with about half who said the same the early 1970s, according to the General Social Survey.


{snip} They may be disillusioned by the powers that be. Yet so far, they’ve continued to vote in larger percentages than previous young generations, even after some concede that they’ve failed to see the “change” that President Barack Obama first promised in 2008.

And despite their skepticism, they also continue to be a largely optimistic lot.

A Pew Research Center survey done in 2012 found that 73 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds were optimistic that they would eventually achieve their life goals, or had already achieved them.

Jon Rogowski, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, has worried that, given these findings about trust, some young people will tire and “turn inwards” and away from civic engagement. {snip}


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  • TruthBeTold

    “…the current atmosphere–fed by the Great Recession, mass shootings, and
    everything from church sex abuse scandals and racial strife to the
    endless parade of publicly shamed politicians, athletes and
    celebrities–may help explain why this young generation’s trust levels
    hit an all-time low…”

    They’re also being stifled by institutional political correctness.

    They’ve grown up being told to watch what they say and keep their non-pc opinions to themselves.

    I used to work with college age boys and they knew to whisper certain comments lest they be overheard.

    They may not know it but on some level they’re living in an old Soviet-style system.

    • connorhus

      I see a big difference between the young men I work with and the old guys in how they feel not just about minorities but about women especially. I work with a bunch of really old guys who are mostly retired but work part time while the younger guys are just getting going and working full time. The old men will go out of their way for every young female in the place to the point that the younger guys will start eye rolling and become very defensive when the old guys start promoting and lobbying for the women. As a Gen X’er myself I find I have more in common with the older Boomers but side solidly with the younger guys when it comes to gender and minority relations. I just don’t think the old Boomer men really understand how the so called equality stuff they allowed to happen hurt those who came after them. They still see things the way they were in the 50’s and 60’s while the younger guys have paid the price.

      The way the old guys fawn and flirt with these young girls is almost sickening and embarrassing at times but they get away with it while if the younger men tried it they would be fired.

    • John R

      Mass shootings? The priest sex abuse scandal? “Racial strife”? Come on! Really, living and working near hateful minorities that have been taught to hate Whites. Of course there is less trust. Strange (NOT) how liberals never take responsibility for any negative trends in society even though their very policies have created them.

      • Sick of it

        They usually do not consider what they produce to be negative, but rather good.

        “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20

  • They’re often pegged as the civic-minded, do-gooding generation.

    They’re really the most useless unremarkable generation ever.

    Jon Rogowski, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis

    Today must be St. Louis day on AR. Or maybe I should stop sending AR so many stories.

  • D.B. Cooper

    Not good enough. All of you millennials have been receiving 24-7 “Diversity is our strength” indoctrination, and 90% of you still believe in it at face value. I WILL be enjoying watching you languish as you enter the workforce. You deserve it, and I will not feel sorry for you. You are the guys who keep calling me a racist, aren’t you?

    • John R

      But we are the guys that subjected them to this emotional abuse since their childhoods. Don’t blame our children. We and our elders created this mess that they will have to live in. And, PLEASE, what does any nineteen year old college kid really know about the world? “Teacher leave them kids alone…”

      • celtthedog

        I agree John R. Like Cooper I’m a Generation X and I actually have some sympathy for the Millennials — precisely because they have been brainwashed.

        That said, the majority of first-time, white voters voted against Obama in 2012. There’s hope for them yet.

  • Truthseeker

    Diversity leads to a reduction of social capital, and hence, less civic engagement and trust. Pretty straightforward.

  • Simonetta

    Waal, gooa-lee, who wouldn’t feel alienated if they had been told since birth that the only possible way for them to get anywhere in life was to get some silly college degree. And then spending tens of thousands of hours dutifully studying meaningless nonsense to satisfy the whim of some federal curriculum committee, at the opportunity cost of learning any valuable skill-set or income-producing trade. Only to learn upon graduation that the cost of the compounding interest on their four-figure tuition loan would increase faster than their ability to pay it off at any entry-level job that they could find. So that they could look forward to a life in a dead-end job with a daily two-hour commute for the ‘opportunity’ to buy a $500,000 cardboard house in rotting suburb. While their boomer parents gallivant their inheritance away boozing in “The Villages”.

    Gee, we should all be so lucky. If I were 25 in this situation, I doubt I could even get out of bed in the morning to get my daily dose of Xanzacs, Proziixs, or whatever corporate narcotic prescribed for me by caring elders to ‘help’ my depression.

  • OS-Q

    A slight majority of people are either liberals, phony conservatives, or nonwhites – and most institutions are run by them – why should we trust them?

    • Nancy

      Just for fun, I took a Political Spectrum quiz to see where I land in the general population. No surprise, but I came off more “right” on the grid than most Americans. The cool thing about the quiz, though, is that once you get your results, you can compare them to various demographic averages: say, compare your score to Male Caucasians between 40-49 years old.

      The quiz is anonymous, but they do ask you your gender, age range, race, political party (optional), country…just to help add your results to the correct demographic.

      Your comment, OS-Q, bears itself out on the quiz results. Most whites tend to skew moderate, mostly libertarian/slightly left of center.

      If you’re interested, it’s at http www[dot]gotoquiz[dot]com/politics/political-spectrum-quiz.html

      • IstvanIN

        Cool, I am a: You are a center-left moderate social authoritarian. Non-interventionist.

        I guess that means I am a live and let live guy as long as you behave in public and I don’t have to see it. I also believe our government should mind its own business.

      • Alexandra1973

        I’m 41, I had to choose “neutral” for quite a few of them because I either didn’t really care, or I didn’t know enough about the subject to form an opinion (mostly the economics-related questions). Some of those questions were a bit loaded, like “discriminated against,” “suppressed,” that kind of thing.

        At any rate, it says I’m a right social moderate, non-interventionalist, and cultural conservative.

  • Dave4088

    Racial diversity lowers trust among members in society and since millennials are much more likely to attend racially diverse schools these findings come as no surprise. Multiracial schools are very segregated and marked by racial tension and in no way resemble Beverly Hills 90210 or “Saved By the Bell” .

    Also, millennials are more likely to be product of single parent homes, and kids are generally less well behaved and respectful than in previous generations.

    • Ultimate187

      I think they’re talking about millennial distrust of the government, mainstream media, religious and other institutions… not necessarily distrust of their fellow man, although there’s probably some of that too.

      • me

        The Millennials are a heck of a lot smarter than the spoiled, self-indulgent Baby Boomers and their children of grunge, Generation X. As soon as the last Baby Boomer gasps their last breath, then the Millennials will get a chance to make things right. Behold, the ‘Dark Enlightenment’, which stealthily works behind the scenes as Anonymous, the Riders, the Radi’s, the PA’s, etc.
        The Founding Fathers methods were great examples….

        • Lucy

          Most of the children of Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are not Generation Xers (1965-1980), but Generation Y/Millenials (1981-2000) as they married and had children much later than their parents.
          I’m a generation Xer myself (born in 1968) and like most of my cousins and friends, our parents were born well before 1946…

          • Dan B. Cooper

            Gen X = 1961 – 1981

          • Two very good books on the subject are “Generations” by Strauss & Howe (ISBN 0-688-11912-3) and “13th Gen” by the same authors (ISBN 0-679-74365-0).

        • bilderbuster

          The Baby Boomers were the most spoiled brats ever but that should come as no surprise because their parents were New Deal Liberals who loved President for Life Roosevelt who in turn was Joseph Stalin’s greatest ally.
          They even called themselves “The Greatest Generation” and believed it.

          • John R

            BULL! Others made up that phrase. They were a civically minded generation that pushed this country to it’s greatest heights. Only trouble is, sadly, they wanted their children to have a life better than theirs. And, yes, that is how the “Baby Boomers” came about.

          • bilderbuster

            The USA was the USSR’s greatest ally and the “Greatest Generation” bombed Germany flat and made Europe and the world “Safe for Communism”.

          • Maybe ol’ Adolf shouldn’t have declared war on the US on December 10, 1941. FDR wanted to aid Britain, and Hitler played right into his hands with that declaration of war. Congress and the US public wanted to cream Japan, and would have been quite content to do just that if Hitler’d kept his pie-hole shut.

          • bilderbuster

            Maybe he shouldn’t have but the US was never neutral and had been massively aiding Britain and The USSR and attacking German submarines.
            The US had seized all the accounts of nations that Germany had occupied and had invaded Greenland.
            Maybe ol’ racist Adolf shouldn’t have honored his treaty with Japan but he did.
            I find it funny how Germany of all nations was the only power with a non White ally.

          • Sick of it

            Not true. Jews like the Rosenvelts would have declared war one way or another.

          • bilderbuster

            Propagandist Tom Brokaw coined the phrase after being inspired by Jewish writer/propagandist Louis “Studs” Terkel’s book “The Good War”.
            Both of them were paid well to glorify the destruction of the most advanced nation in Europe.

          • me

            The “Greatest Generation” made the world safe for Communism, tortured and killed their fellow White Europeans for the Merchants, raised a generation of ugly, self-loathing, xenophiliac, self-centered, drug-addled, sexually degenerate Baby Boomers, who in turn set in motion the destruction of the USA, Europe, and any other formerly White and prosperous country. Refute this if you can….

        • Dan B. Cooper

          You are a moron, from a Gen Xer.

          • me

            Sticks and stones. At least I didn’t adopt the moniker from a failed crook… there! Nyah! LOL!

  • Instead of complaining about the situation youth are in, we should use it as an opportunity to “sell” White Nationalism 2.0 (as MindweaponsinRagnarok calls it).

    WN 2.0 can offer youths insights into their own miserable existences no one else can, plus a way out and into a better place. Like missionaries, we salesmen need to offer both material and spiritual sustenance. WN 2.0 is definitely not the old KKK model.

    We need to do our selling stealthily however. After Mindweapons was outed in the press last month, he’s not posting new material on his site, but the site is up and there’s a wealth of conceptual material on how to be a Mindweapon.

    Use every opportunity to lead white youths along the path to racial awareness by guiding their imaginations. Most of them are aware of black thuggery, so start there and work your way into other areas.

    Encourage them to learn a real skill (like Michael Christopher Scott, who posts here). Make it clear that times are going to be tough as whites are ever more demonized. Show them how to withdraw from the System.

    Talk about this site, Stormfront, Daily Stormer, Viking Bitch, pro-white girl singer Saga, our glorious white history, but do things one step at a time. Some will reject you. That’s OK.

    Just pretend you’re a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness missionary who needs to knock on a lot of doors to make a convert.

    • LHathaway

      I’m sure you could do the most good posting in mainstream blogs such as newspapers that allow comments. .

    • 1stworlder

      Or just say if equality really existed why would they have to tell you so many times instead of it being self evident.

  • Sick of it

    Is it gloomy to grow tired of being taken advantage of by others over and over again? To see people for how they really are? It’s more properly termed sanity.

    • I think what has disillusioned a lot of Millennials is the transparent hypocrisy evident in so much of society.

      • John R

        Thank you. And, in this day and age, “society” means “liberal society” as that is the prevailing ideology of today.

      • Periapsis

        Indeed, that is increasingly impossible to miss, or deny.

  • Who Me?

    This is understandable. The millennials have more die-versity to deal with, thus less White people (percentage-wise) TO trust.

  • Usually Much Calmer

    The future is vacant. High trust societies are efficient, safe, prosperous, and happy. Low trust societies yield lives that are ugly, brutish, and short.

    Liberalism was a good thing. Shame about those feral pets.

    • IstvanIN

      Sounds like Sweden or Minnesota 20 years ago until diversity hit.

  • kjh64

    I don’t think it has anything to do with what “generation” you are. I think people of all ages, young and old alike and every age in between, have far less trust in people and institutions than in the past.

    • IstvanIN

      I bet this old lady, well maybe her family, aren’t very trust filled anymore:
      A woman has been beheaded in a back garden. (83 year old)

      Scotland Yard said a firearms officer had suffered a broken wrist in the course of arresting the 25-year-old man who is being held on suspicion of murder. (black)

  • 4321realist

    “In 2012, only 16 percent of high school seniors believed “most people can be trusted.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s due to this multicultural environment wherein people have a tendency to trust everybody less. There was a study supporting that allegation.

    The left acquires a following by repetitious Orwellian propaganda techniques that program their adherents, but I’m guessing that way down deep inside the PC weenies don’t really believe the leftist mantras and such feelings manifest themselves in a feeling of distrust for everything and everybody.

  • willbest

    Interesting… I wonder if you will see an increase in second/third cousin marriage in the US as tribalism takes hold

    • Sick of it

      Not likely, as the prevailing worldview supports marrying people as different from you as possible.

  • bilderbuster

    If you want to read about some disgruntled folks you can search “british ww2 vets hate what england has become”.

  • John R

    All that talk about how “different generations” are less trusting, but it fails to make the most obvious point: The millennial generation is the most racially “diverse” generation, and that is not a good thing. Of course blacks and Hispanics are going to be less trusting. They are around…..blacks and Hispanics! And of course Whites feel less trusting being around more blacks….DUH! Another of the benefits of diversity!

  • One thing they do trust is homos. They are totally into homomania pushed by the Jewish-controlled media. They are mostly sheep.

  • Dan B. Cooper

    Generations are counted in 20 year intervals according to Harvard U., so, you are wrong.