What have been your most surprising findings in “The Politics of the Millennial Generation,” and how have the wars that have lasted a large portion of our lifetime shaped our worldview?
While we believe that Millennial attitudes are durable (in other words, they are cohort related, rather than just age-related– meaning they will not drastically change as Millennials get older), we cannot be certain of this at this point since Millennials have not yet gotten older.
What has surprised me the most about Millennials is how resilient they are, given all the challenges they have faced– coming of age in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, how this has impacted their prospects for economic stability and success and how they have dealt with the outrageous an increasing costs of education and healthcare.
One of my published papers, “Economic Uncertainty, Job Threat, and the Resiliency of the Millennial Generation’s Attitudes toward Immigration,” shows that despite the economic downturn and perceived increase in competitiveness for jobs with immigrants, Millennials are still very supportive of liberal immigration policies.
Unlike many others, I am very optimistic about Millennials and believe that if our democracy is to get back to a relatively healthy place, it will be in large part because of them.
The prolonged wars in the Middle East and the “War on Terror” have certainly impacted Millennials’ worldview, but not in a way most people might think. In fact Millennials are more likely to take Cosmopolitan view of the world, meaning they see themselves as “global citizens” and take this approach to their views on foreign policy.
They prefer diplomatic solutions to world problems and are concerned about how these wars are impacting the citizens who live in those countries. We dedicate a whole chapter on this in the book.
Given the near perpetual economic uncertainty, wars in the middle east, and rapid development in technology, how will politics change when this generation attains a greater foothold in government?
I think this is still an open question. Millennials believe in the important role of government in influencing (improving) people’s lives. However, they are very distrustful of political institutions, including political parties (a large majority of Millennials do not affiliate with either major party), Congress, etc.
Millennials prefer alternative or non-traditional forms of participation including efforts through social media and other platforms. What remains uncertain is whether Millennials will have a large role in changing how we practice and view politics or whether they will conform to existing traditions or institutions. I tend to think it will be a combination or a hybrid, once it is all said and done.
What would the layman find most interesting and accessible within your research?
Well, our book, “The Politics of Millennials” was written to reach a broad audience and not just those who speak academic language. We want the lay person to be able to enjoy and understand our arguments and we present our findings in a way that we hope does this.
I think the most interesting part of the research is that I think readers will come away with a different understanding of the importance of “generation” as a form of identity and the uniqueness of Millennials, relative to other generations.
My work on Millennials developed from my work on minorities, specifically Latinos. I started coming back to the statistic that Latinos are disproportionately young and that they make up a large part of the Millennial generation. Upon further investigation, I began to realize that generational identity, while not the same thing as racial and ethnic identity, it is an important determinant of political attitudes.
The Millennial Generation is now the largest cohort in the United States and the persona of this generation is quite unique–having grown up with 9/11 as a backdrop, they are the first “digital natives” (first generation to not know what it is like to be without the internet, computers, hand-held devices, social media, etc.), and they are the most diverse generation ever.
These are important factors to examine when we think about the near future of our politics (Millennials will soon be largely in charge).
What is the most interesting story in your academic career? Your greatest adventure, mishap, fortuitous incident etc.
Well, interesting doesn’t necessarily mean good. For me it was the time one of my grad school professors tried to claim one of my research ideas for himself. He told me that if I wanted to publish a paper on that topic, he would need to be the lead author on the paper because his role was as my gatekeeper!
There are a lot of good things about academia, but a lot of bad things as well. Some of these include the cut-throat of the business, as well of issues of misogyny and discrimination.
With all the funding in the world, what would you have researched and how?
I am very interested in exploring why our democracy is faltering and how we can get it back to a healthy place. While Millennials are part of the story, there are bigger societal questions that need to be addressed.
These include general apathy, mistrust of the media and the rise of fake news, as well as why we have become so polarized. Then the question is how we deal with all of this and how we get citizens more engaged in the democratic process (our democracy completely relies on people caring about all of this).