"Meet the Millennials!," part 3: climate change, evolution, and generational polarization
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 3:16AM
Dan Kahan

This is part 3 of CCP’s hit  series, “Meet the Millennials!”

In episode 1, we saw that the Millennials like to go to the zoo more often than do members of the Baby Boom, Generation X, and Silent Generation cohorts.

In episode 2, we observed that Millennials did better than other generational cohorts on a standardized test of science comprehension (the Ordinary Science Intelligence assessment), but were nevertheless no more science-curious than members of those other age brackets.we observed that Millennials did better than other generational cohorts on a standardized test of science comprehension (the Ordinary Science Intelligence assessment), but were nevertheless no more science-curious the members of those other age brackets.

Now, in what will be either the final or not the final episode of the series, we take a look at how Millennials fare in their beliefs in human-caused climate change and human evolution.

What do we see?  This on climate change,

 

and this on evolution.

Basically in relation to political outlooks Millennials are the group least polarized on climate change. Similarly, in relation to religiosity the Millennials are the least polarized on acceptance of human evolution. 

The difference in the degree of polarization, moreover, increase as the age differentials grow.  There’s not much difference between Millennials (born 1982-1999) and members of Generation X (1965-1981). But there is a decided difference between Millennials and Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and an even greater difference between Millennials and members of the Silent Generation (born before 1946).

I can think of two explanations.  The first is cohort shift: based on their experience and common exposure to social influences, the Millennials, while far from uniform in their assessments of controversial science-issues, are less worked up over them.  On this theory, we can expect a gradual, generational abatement of controversy over matters like climate change and evolution.

The second theory, however, is opinion shift: as they age, members of every generational cohort become more partisan and thus more divided on controversy-provoking forms of science.  There’s actually some literature to support this view, which I’ve commented on before.

Normally, at this point I’d say, “What do you think?” But thanks to Squarespace (which has admitted that it views older sites like this one as “low priority”), the CCP blog’s comment function is broken.

So tell you what: If you’d like to comment on this post, send me an email, and I’ll manually insert them into the comment field.  Use “Meet the Millennials!” in the re line so I can be sure to spot the messages and take the work-around steps necessary to let you be heard.

Article originally appeared on cultural cognition project (http://www.culturalcognition.net/).
See website for complete article licensing information.