Mixed-up youth of the millennium

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The Independent Online
THEY VOTE New Labour, but hate politics. They respect the police, yet loathe the Nanny State. They love risk-taking, but want happy marriages and children. Oh, and they want Ecstasy banned. Welcome to the crazy, mixed-up world of the Millennial Generation.

A survey published today claims that British 16 to 21-year-olds are more classless, meritocratic and self-reliant than any other age group.

The study, carried out by Mori and the Adam Smith Institute, claims that the youth of today are vigorously opposed to bans on guns, smoking and explicit sex and violence on TV.

However, as many of them have experienced parental break-up and divorce, they retain a traditional belief in family and authority that harks back to the 1950s.

Describing the Millennial Generation as the successors to Generation X, the group of late twenty and thirtysomethings depicted in the novel by Douglas Coupland, the report's authors claim that teenagers are more tolerant than ever before. There is hardly anything the group says it would ban, including government restrictions on beef on the bone, tobacco advertising and cannabis.

The only things the Millennial Generation says it would outlaw are Ecstasy and fox-hunting with hounds. More than 40 per cent say they have been offered drugs but refused them. The youngsters claim to be more classless than ever before, believing that background and good connections are less important than personal drive and a solid education.

One third of the Millennial Generation will go through university or other higher education, the highest proportion in history, and believe they will earn more than any of their predecessors.

When they graduate, most say they want to own their own business or become entrepreneurs. More than 43 per cent list "becoming a millionaire by the age of 35" as a career goal.

Whereas in the 1970s, local government or the Civil Service was the most popular career choice, just 1 per cent of today's youngsters say they even contemplated such a move.

Yet unlike Generation X, they say they are not interested in jobs in the media, advertising or PR and prefer the attractions of commerce and law. The top career choice is to own their own business, with 48 per cent putting it as their favoured option and as many girls as boys backing the idea.

"The Millennial Generation appear to have moved close to the kinds of aspirations thought to typify their American counterparts, rather than towards an attitude more representative of the European approach," says the report. The social aspirations of the group are thoroughly traditional, with 59 per cent saying they would like to own their own home and 46 per cent wanting children.

One statistic that might cheer the Government after its recent launch of a Green Paper on family life is that the biggest single goal of most of those polled was "to be happily married with a family".

Ministers may also be boosted by the fact that a huge 61 per cent of 16 to 21-year-olds support New Labour, with the Tories way behind on just 17 per cent, only just ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 14 per cent.

Yet 71 per cent believe that voting will "make no difference" to their lives and most believe that it is up to individuals not governments to find jobs and housing.

Only on pensions and education does the group favour the state's involvement over the private sector.

A large majority of youngsters have no respect for MPs.

They claim to have most respect for doctors, teachers and policemen, with teachers scoring a 46 per cent rating, half as high again as similar surveys 12 years ago. Journalists come bottom, with just 2 per cent.

"The picture painted is of a generation which differs in many respects from its predecessors. They do not expect too much from the political process and accord little or no respect to its practitioners," the report concludes. "The Millennial Generation seem to be self-confident and self- dependent. They aim high and do not think themselves limited by background." n The survey questioned 648 people face to face at 53 sampling points across Britain in September. Voting and other demographic data was taken from a 1997 survey of 5,374 respondents and combined with the latest research.

Portrait of a Generation



Owning their own business

Happy marriage and children

Cigarette smoking

New Labour







Bans on handguns

Tobacco ads



Trade union leaders

Jobs in the media or civil service

Censorship of sex and violence on TV and films

Privilege and class