Nearly 9 in 10 American "Millennials" – those born between 1980 and 1991 – say it's up to their generation to clean up the environment, but a majority also believes that many Millennials go overboard when it comes to environmental issues.
These are the findings from a LifeWay Research study for an upcoming book by Thom Rainer and his son Jess Rainer titled "The Millennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation." The research is based on a wide-ranging August 2009 survey of 1,200 Millennials in the United States.
Eighty-seven percent of Millennials agree, 41 percent strongly, with the statement, "It is up to my generation to clean up the environment." Asians, Hispanics and people living in the West have particularly strong convictions about their environmental responsibility.
Most Millennials feel "previous generations did great harm to the environment," but just 25 percent agree strongly with this assessment.
"Millennials show an acute awareness of the issues surrounding the environment," said Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. "Any outright dismissal of environmental issues will be seen as crass ignorance regarding both the people and the planet."
Do Millennials go overboard?
Millennials are split as to whether they see their peers going too far on environmental issues. A slim majority (54 percent) agrees with the statement, "Many people in my generation go overboard on environmental issues," and only 18 percent agree strongly. Thirty-six percent disagree somewhat, and 10 percent disagree strongly.
Women and people in the Northeast are less likely to agree with this assessment of their generation, while those who trust Christ as Savior particularly feel that their generation overdoes it on environmental issues.
Most Millennials say their voting is impacted by a political candidate's environmental conscience, but very few feel strongly this way. In responding to the statement, "One of the key factors when I choose a political candidate is that he or she has a strong environmental conscience," 2 out of 3 agree, but only 16 percent agree strongly.
Whites are less likely than other ethnic groups to agree with this statement. Those who trust Christ as Savior also are less likely to agree, although they are fairly split on the issue with 60 percent agreeing and 40 percent disagreeing.
The environment and employment
Although many feel their generation goes overboard on the environment, that didn't stop 73 percent of Millennials from saying they would like to use their skills in a job that benefits the environment.
Minorities and those involved in a non-Christian religion are the most likely to want to have a job that benefits the environment. Those who indicate their religion as Christian are less likely to want such a job, but those who trust Christ as Savior are no less likely to agree with the statement, "I would like to use my skills in a job that benefits the environment."
"Churches were once built at the center of town because it was the place where faith and culture intersected," Rainer said. "But today's research shows the church at the margins of conversations important in our culture. Christians do not have to agree about the issues of environmentalism, but they should be engaged in the dialogue important to the largest generation in American history."
Methodology: LifeWay Research, in August 2009, 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.