We have heard for the past decade that the generation following Gen X (usually called the Millenials or the We Generation) exhibits a turn toward conservatism and civic-mindedness. Jean Twenge has an article in the Atlantic suggesting that this is not the case:
In the years that followed, numerous books and news reports emphasized Millennials' desire to help others, become involved in politics and government, and work toward improving the environment. "People born between 1982 and 2000 are the most civic-minded since the generation of the 1930s and 1940s," claimed USA Today. "Generation We is noncynical and civic-minded. They believe in the value of political engagement and are convinced that government can be a powerful force for good," wrote Eric Greenberg and Karl Weber in their 2008 book Generation We. "By comparison with past generations, Generation We is highly politically engaged." Both of these sources mentioned the rise in volunteering and interviewed Millennials, but didn't compare those responses to data from previous generations. In my 2006 book Generation Me, I presented data showing generational increases in self-esteem, assertiveness, self-importance, narcissism, and high expectations, based on surveys of 1.2 million young people, some dating back to the 1920s. These analyses indicated a clear cultural shift toward individualism and focusing on the self. But perhaps both views were correct -- maybe Millennials' greater self-importance found expression in helping others and caring about larger social causes. [...] So we dug into the data. The results for civic engagement were clear: Millennials were less likely than Boomers and even GenXers to say they thought about social problems, to be interested in politics and government, to contact public officials, or to work for a political campaign. They were less likely to say they trusted the government to do what's right, and less likely to say they were interested in government and current events. It was a far cry from Howe and Strauss' prediction of Millennials as "The Next Great Generation" in civic involvement. Millennials were also less likely to say they did things in their daily lives to conserve energy and help the environment, and less likely to agree that government should take action on environmental issues. With all of the talk about Millennials being "green," I expected these items to be the exception. Instead, they showed some of the largest declines. Three times as many Millennials as Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment. Millennials were slightly less likely to say they wanted a job that was helpful to others or was worthwhile to society. This is directly counter to the Generation We view predicting that Millennials would be much more concerned for others. Volunteering rates did increase, the only item out of 30 measuring concern for others that did. However, this rise occurred at the same time that high schools increasingly required volunteer service to graduate.I think many people hoped that the failure of the Baby Boom generation would automatically produce a backlash, but there is nothing automatic about virtue. It requires work and education to transmit the values of the past to future generations. This doesn't necessarily prove that conservative hopes are dashed; there is still time to persuade this future generation of the value of traditional values. But it does demonstrate that conservatism is not a naturally occurring phenomenon.