Climate change is the number-one issue of concern among young Americans. That’s one of seven major findings in a new report: Influencing Young America to Act 2019.
The report examines how the oldest members of Generation Z and the youngest millennials (“young America”) – those Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 – are influenced by, and influence others to take intentional action on, social issues. It analyzes how those actions coalesce to form a community of support for specific social movements.
Social issues of interest
The researchers defined a social issue as an existing situation recognized as being counter to a generally accepted social value that can be mitigated through people working together to deploy community resources to change the situation.
The top five issues of interest to the young America (and the percentage that selected them) are climate change (30 percent), civil rights/racial discrimination (25 percent), immigration (21 percent), healthcare reform (20 percent) and mental health/social services (16 percent).
Social movements of interest
In their research, they defined a social movement as a group of people working together to support the interests of a community whose lives are affected by a specific issue; the group often is unable to address the issue and achieve a satisfactory resolution without the support of dedicated community activists and constituents.
The top five movements of interest to young America were #MeToo (26 percent), #BlackLivesMatter (26 percent), #AllLivesMatter (24 percent), #HumanRights (24 percent ) and #MedicareForAll (23 percent). (Note that although climate change was the number-one social issue, it did not appear among the top five movements.)
Moving young America from awareness to action
One of the most fascinating findings of the study relate to a young person’s journey from awareness to action. How do causes capture individuals’ interest in the first place and then move them to take the first step – and all the steps thereafter – toward support of an issue or movement? And how do causes successfully motivate followers to recruit others to support the movement?