NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When seeking information or advice, almost two-thirds of American "Millennials" – those born between 1980 and 1991 – prefer to rub shoulders with many people who have personal experience rather than a single recognized expert.
These and other findings are from a wide-ranging August 2009 LifeWay Research study of 1,200 Millennials in the United States. The study forms the basis for the upcoming book "The Millennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation" by Dr. Thom Rainer and his son Jess Rainer.
According to the study, men (45 percent) and Asians (53 percent) are more likely than other Millennials to prefer learning from one recognized expert.
Sources of influence
Among all Millennials, the biggest sources of influence on their lives are parents, friends and extended family. The vast majority (88 percent) say their parent or parents remain a positive influence on their lives, including 51 percent who call them a strongly positive influence.
Those who indicate they trust Christ as their Savior, churchgoers and those who have some sort of religious beliefs are far more likely than others to say their parents are still a strongly positive influence on their lives.
More than half (55 percent) of Millennials with at least one living parent say they continue to get a lot of guidance from their parents, and another 31 percent say they get some guidance.
"One of the largest bridges spanning any generation gap is the desire of children to remain connected with their parents," said Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. "The influence of parents on adult Millennials is still strong as their children move through adulthood."
Eight in 10 Millennials say their friends are a positive influence on their lives, although only 33 percent called them a strongly positive influence. Nearly eight in 10 say they get much, or at least some, guidance from friends.
Most of those surveyed also say their extended families are positive influences – 42 percent saying somewhat positive and 33 percent saying strongly positive. One out of four Millennials indicate they get a lot of guidance from extended family members, while another 44 percent say they receive some.
Religious beliefs and the influence of media
Thirty-eight percent of Millennials say their religious beliefs have no influence on their lives. Thirty-two percent indicate their beliefs have a strongly positive influence, while another 26 percent call the influence somewhat positive.
African-Americans who trust Christ as Savior and those who have some sort of religious beliefs are far more likely than others to say those beliefs are a strongly positive influence in their lives.
Half of the respondents say a church or house of worship has no influence on their lives. Twenty-two percent indicate a church has a strongly positive influence, while another 21 percent call the influence somewhat positive.
Only 18 percent of all Millennials indicate they get a lot of guidance or advice from sacred texts such as the Bible, Torah or Koran, while another 24 percent get some. The most common answer (37 percent) is none at all.
Responding to questions about the influence of various media, Millennials say:
- Music is a more positive influence than the Internet or television. One in four (24 percent) indicate music has a strongly positive influence, while 37 percent say it has a somewhat positive influence.
- The Internet is a positive influence. Four in 10 say the Internet is somewhat positive, while 15 percent say it is strongly positive. Thirty-eight percent indicate the Internet has no influence on their lives.
- Television is much less of an influence than the Internet. Fifty-four percent say TV has no influence, and 14 percent say it has a negative influence.
"The church's influence on Millennials stems not from its excellent programming but from its intentional relationships," Rainer concluded. "Many Millennials will hear the truth of Scripture most effectively in the context of loving relationships."
The study found that 65 percent of Millennials identify themselves as Christian, 14 percent say they are atheist or agnostic, 14 percent list no religious preference, and 8 percent claim other religions.
Detailed wording of questions used for subgroups is available at LifeWayResearch.com. Also see the first article in this series, "Study finds American 'Millennials' are spiritually diverse."
Methodology: In August 2009 LifeWay Research conducted a national, demographically representative survey of 1,200 U.S. adults born between 1980 and 1991. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed ±2.8 percent.