This ongoing CivicScience series digs deep into the data to explore how young adults today (Gen Z aged 18-24) differ from young adults five years ago (Millennials now aged 25-30). What can we learn about these generations – one which entered into adulthood prior to the pandemic, the other now coming of age in the middle of it? How different are they, really? Here’s what five years of polling has to say.

Brand Favorability and Importance Among Young U.S. Adults, Then & Now

A look at 18- to 24-year-olds in 2022 compared to 18- to 24-year-olds in 2017 (yearly averages):

McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A? Here’s how favorability for major brands and retailers has changed since 2017.

Then (2017)

A look at several leading brands tracked by CivicScience shows which ones resonated with young Millennials at the time (‘favorability’ being those who ‘like’ or ‘love’ a brand). Among notable mentions: Chick-fil-A was much more popular than McDonald’s, Target outranked Walmart, and nearly two-thirds liked/loved shopping on

Now (2022)

Today, we see several big shifts in favorability among top brands. Chick-fil-A still tops fast-food at 66%, but McDonald’s skyrocketed to more than 60% favorability. Gen Z is also much more favorable to Whole Foods, Walmart, Gap, and American Apparel than young adults were in 2017. Target remains just as popular, while Amazon is somewhat less so. Also noteworthy, today’s young adults are three times more likely to ‘closely follow’ Major League Soccer.

Brand or price? Young adults today are more likely to shop by brand.

Then (2017)

When it came to shopping decisions, price held an edge over brand-name. Young adults in 2017 were over three times more likely to say that ‘price’ was more important to them than ‘brand’ when shopping (43% to 13%).

Now (2022)

That ratio has shifted dramatically. Nearly 30% of Gen Z adults say that brand is more important when shopping, while another 30% say the same for price. Despite the financial challenges of the pandemic era, today’s young adults place a precedence on brand-name.

While there is a clear increase in the importance of brand, CivicScience data also show that young adults today are not more likely to claim that they are loyal to their favorite brands than young adults in 2017. That could suggest that while Gen Z is more brand-conscious, they are not necessarily more brand-loyal.

Online or in-store shopping? Gen Z flipped the script on the status quo.

Then (2017)

Prior to the pandemic, data suggest young adults were more likely to shop in person than online. Half of young adults in 2017 said they did the majority of their shopping in a physical store, while just a quarter did the same online.

Now (2022)

Another radical shift among 18- to 24-year-olds, nearly half of Gen Z adults (43%) say they do the majority of their shopping online. Just a quarter are likely to do most of their shopping in stores. The pandemic accelerated online shopping, although data show a resurgent interest among young adults for in-person shopping experiences during the holiday season.

More Gen Z In-Focus Insights to discover:

Today’s Young Adults Are Less Concerned About the Environment, but More Likely to Volunteer

Want to learn more about the Gen Z consumer? Book a demo. And stay tuned for an upcoming CivicScience report that deep dives into all things Gen Z.