How a series of extraordinary events have altered millennials’ willingness to address social issues

The COVID-19 pandemic was just the first of a series of major events that turned 2020 into one of the most active and meaningful years of civic engagement this country has ever seen. While the pandemic initially prompted plenty of action on its own, other significant occurrences further transformed life for Americans: nationwide demonstrations on racial equity, a contentious U.S. presidential election and an assault on the U.S. Capitol. 

To truly understand the civic responses and opportunities these events catalyzed, Points of Light embarked on a series of actions and research studies to help individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations find rewarding roles within civic life.  

In 2021, Points of Light focused its research on the civic engagement of millennials. This report, titled “Civic Life Today: A Millennial Perspective”, shares how a concentration of extraordinary experiences in a brief period of time has influenced the civic involvement of the country’s largest generation in history and whether their intentions to do more for society have or are likely to come to fruition.  

This research builds upon Points of Light’s 2020 civic engagement research “Civic Life Today: A Look at American Civic Engagement Amid a Global Pandemic” which studied the attitudes, motivations, and barriers to civic engagement. 

 The findings from the study revealed the following key themes about millennials today: 

  • Millennials view social issues through a very personal lens. Whereas social issues used to be something they volunteered for to help other people, they now see themselves as among those affected. 
  • Almost 50% of millennials believe more in civic engagement now than before the pandemic, 69% are more likely to volunteer, and 85% think people should help their community and the world.  
  • With few exceptions, “spent time learning more about the issue” was the number-one action millennials took to support social issues followed by “used social media” and “changed purchasing.”  
  • Millennials believe companies should be actively involved in social issues, and two-thirds visit corporate websites at least somewhat often to learn about their efforts. Black American males, especially, think companies should meet with consumers about the effects of their products and services. 
  • Respondents said that the top issues the country must address post-pandemic are healthcare (29%), criminal and social justice (24%), education (21%), environment/climate (21%) and financial recovery efforts from COVID-19 (17%.) 

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