Feature

Why are Millennials so optimistic about the future?

A puzzling new poll shows that the vast majority of 18- to 29-year-olds feel their economic situation is getting better

While Millennials have been called many things — navel-gazers, narcissists, potato-sack wearers — they have rarely been singled out for their optimism. But a new poll by Gallup shows that Millennials, the generation roughly defined as having been born after 1980, are overwhelmingly positive about the future. According to Gallup, a full 80 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds believe that their standard of living is getting better.

"This most likely reflects the fact that for older Americans, the economics of daily life are more fixed," says Gallup, "whereas for younger Americans, it is much more likely that their income or other aspects of their living standards will improve." However, it's still a remarkable statistic for a generation in which many members famously entered the workforce at the worst possible time: During the Great Recession and its aftermath. Analysts have warned that high unemployment among Millennials could lead to lasting financial damage for years to come.

Other aspects of Gallup's poll, however, offer a clue as to why young adults are feeling so good. In addition to Millennials, Asians, blacks, and Hispanics all showed strong majorities saying they thought their standard of living is getting better. Furthermore, 61 percent of Democrats say things are getting better, while a plurality of independents — 45 percent — agreed.

The dourest groups were Republicans and those 65 and older, both of which showed pluralities claiming that standards of living are getting worse.

In other words, perhaps the Gallup poll is as much a reflection of Obama fans feeling good about the president's re-election as anything else. Which means critics can start calling Millennials one more thing: Obamatons.

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