Though many people think that Millennials are unable to see life outside of their own shoes, from a data-driven perspective, that might not hold so much weight. Millennials are actually more likely than the general population to answer “Yes” to the question, “When considering most arguments, can you usually see how both sides could be right (or wrong)?” Unfortunately, that may change. Take a look at this graph representing all Americans 13+:
You might notice that the percentage of people who can usually see how both sides of an argument could be right or wrong, and those who can’t, remain relatively steady. In general, 83% of Americans answer “Yes” to this question. Though there has been some fluctuation in the past few months, evening out around 2%, that doesn’t seem to be out of the ordinary when viewing the historical data.
But let’s take a look at this question among Millennials:
If you look carefully, you might be able to notice a much more significant drop in the “Yes” group over the past several months.
In November, 88% of Millennials said they can usually see how both sides of an argument could be right or wrong. In December, that number dropped to 84%. It decreased another 1% in January, and from our preliminary forecasts, it has continued to drop in February. This decline seems to be more evident among Millennial men than women.
It’s important to note that throughout the many years of asking this question, we have never seen a larger shift among Millennials.
Next, there also seems to be a correlation with political affiliation:
Republican Millennials are less likely than the general population to say they can usually see both sides of an argument, while Democrats and Independents are more likely.
Something’s up, and it doesn’t quite take a rocket scientist to figure out what. But why is this important?
Well – this could be very, very bad. When we’re talking about politics, it can be hard to see beyond the everyday effects of policies, elections etc.… We’re engrained in the moment, whether it be in joy, sadness or fear. What’s much harder to conceptualize are the long-term effects of our combative political environment and policies, and their effects on younger generations. On a major level, this is why we dismiss the issue of global warming so consistently – because we cannot immediately see its effects. But that doesn’t make it less dangerous. If anything, it’s the opposite.
Similarly, failing to see both sides of an argument can be disastrous, as I hope we all know by now.
Are we in danger of approaching a line where we may lose the character and open-mindedness that Millennials have had in the past? If that happens, what next?
I hope that all political parties can agree that empathy is invaluable to society. If our actions are depleting that empathy among Millennials, instead of fostering it, that is something all parties will need to address and resolve together. Perhaps it could even unite them.