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Research Questions

  1. Do millennials' attitudes toward security differ from the views of previous generations?
  2. If so, what do these perceptions imply for U.S. security policy in 2040?

Millennials, those born between 1982 and 2000, are the largest segment of the U.S. population, with 84.3 million people, and by 2040, they will account for an even larger segment of the population. As these young Americans become more prominent in all professional fields — politics, government, media, academia, business — their attitudes, preferences, and beliefs will have increasing weight in public discourse and U.S. policy toward security. But the millennial outlook has not been carefully studied. Do their attitudes toward security differ from the views of previous generations? And if so, what do these perceptions imply for U.S. security policy in 2040? This report — part of a series examining critical security challenges in 2040 — analyzes survey data from a nationally representative sample of adults, examines perceptions of economic and national security, compares attitudes and opinions of millennials with previous generations, and concludes by making inferences about potential millennial concerns about security in the year 2040. The report reveals that attitudes and opinions of security tend to pattern with age, not generation. Specifically, older people expressed more worry about national security topics than younger people, while younger people expressed more worry about economic security. Younger people also were less likely than older people to report that living in a democracy was important to them.

Key Findings

Survey data revealed some statistically significant differences in the attitudes of younger Americans toward economic and national security, along with some notable continuities with the views of older Americans.

  • In general, younger people reported being more worried about economic security and less worried about national security than older Americans.
  • They were also less likely than older Americans to report that living in a democracy is very important to them.
  • Millennials were the age group least concerned about illegal immigration, the federal budget deficit, or increasing the size of the U.S. Armed Forces as security issues.
  • They were also less concerned than their elders about protecting the United States against terrorist attack or halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Research conducted by

This project is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted within the Center for Global Risk and Security within RAND International Programs.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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