Young Britain. The truth. Starts today

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Today we begin a one-week series reporting the biggest survey ever conducted of Britain's young people. Contrary to the popular image of a drug-dazed and sex-crazed `yoof', the survey finds that young Britons are more serious-minded, hard-working and responsible than any generation since the 1950s. Nicole Veash and Jack O'Sullivan study the results - exclusively in The Independent, every day this week.

The startling new research paints a portrait of a responsible generation trying to build a life on endeavour, destroying the image of youth as ill-educated ravers and state spongers.

Although they have taken on some characteristics of Thatcherism, many remain worried about the disintegration of the Welfare State and the insecure job market.

More than 10,000 young people, aged between 12-25, were asked for their views on work, education and society during the two-year programme.

Jo Gardiner, director of the Industrial Society's 2020 Vision survey, said: "We want to give young people the chance to speak up and speak out.

"They set the agenda, they identified the subjects and they are going to take this research and push for change."

The survey shows a startling picture of an optimistic, can-do generation who want to better themselves through education, while learning practical skills.

They are striving for traditional roots by seeking stability through marriage and family, once declared unfashionable by youth generations of the Sixties and Seventies. And they say parents who provide material goods at the expense of time with their children amounts to neglect.

Women come out on top as best prepared for the new world, while environmental concerns - seen by many as the domain of youth - take a back seat to social problems closer to home.

Even though young Britons are in favour of traditional institutions, they are paradoxically one of the most liberal generations, dedicated to individual rights, including the de-criminalisation of soft drugs and preventative measures against crime as opposed to punitive crackdowns.

Anti-racism and feminist ideals feature high on the agenda for both sexes. And the majority of men and women believe child care should be shared between parents.

A new political landscape also emerges distinct from Westminster, which is generally regarded as a turn off. The majority are only interested in issues close to home, choosing to ignore national and international affairs.

More than 40 per cent said they have had no involvement in any political activity in the last three years.

Surprisingly, the enduring image of young people enjoying frequent casual sex is blown away. The survey shows that the vast majority are looking for a long-term, stable relationship.

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