There is a popular narrative emerging about the importance of motivating and mobilizing younger voters in the U.S. because they are believed to care more about the environment. This response is in part due to actions by Donal Trump, who in his first three years of office has made significant changes to existing environmental protections. These decisions by the Trump administration have prompted scientists, citizens, and some politicians to organize in opposition to further executive action that would place the environment at risk. One of the most prominent examples of environmentalism during Trump’s first year in the White House was the March for Science, which took place on Earth Day in 2017. Prominent during his third year was the effort to continue to upset the current balance of power in the United States government during the next national election in 2020; key to this effort is the mobilization of younger voters—primarily Millennials—who are believed to be more concerned about, and highly motivated, to protect the environment than their counterparts who were born earlier.

With this as backdrop, this research asked, are younger people, defined by age, or younger generations, defined by cohort-level measures, more concerned about declines in environmental health when compared to their older counterparts within the United States? Related, are these same young people more willing to support policy actions aimed at preventing future losses, when compared to older people?

Recent research from our lab does not support the idea that younger generations experience potential losses as more acute than older generations; neither age nor generational cohort correlated with the perceived severity of environmental losses nor support for future actions to prevent them. Better predictors of concern and a willingness to support pro-environment policies turn out to be enviro-centric value orientations and self-reported political orientation.

This research was led by Sara Goto-Gray. Click here for more information about this research.