Cathy Cohen is the principal investigator and founder of Gen Forward Survey—a nationally representative survey of over 1750 young adults ages 18-34. The survey, which is conducted bi-monthly, pays special attention to how race and ethnicity shape how respondents experience and think about the world. “The research from the GenForward Survey is an opportunity to insert the preferences and political beliefs into the national discourse,” said Cohen. “I hope politicians and average citizens will recognize that African American millennials have a clearly defined research agenda that includes improving public education as much as it includes challenging and ending racism and police brutality. There is no monolithic millennial generation,” she continued.
This year’s Gen Forward survey revealed a few key findings:
- Over 75% of millennials, independent of race and ethnicity, believe paying teachers more would do more to improve public education than creating more charter schools.
- Nearly three-quarters of millennials believe that expanding access to mental health resources would do more to improve public education than increasing the number of police officers in schools.
- Near majorities of millennials across racial and ethnic groups are “somewhat” or “very” worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at a school in their community.
- Millennials of color believe students of color get a worse education than whites.
- Substantial numbers of millennials, ranging from 69% of whites to 51% of Latinxs, believe there are many ways to succeed in today’s world without a college education.
So, what does this mean for the election and why should we care? Cohen shared her perspectives with Black Enterprise.
“Young adults have different views of this country and its policies influenced by their race, gender, sexuality, and class. Only when we take seriously the political positions of millennial African Americans, now the largest generation of our community, can we build and move a comprehensive political agenda.”
“If we want to mobilize black millennial voters to go to the polls and vote, politicians and the political parties have to speak to the issues that matter to them, said Cohen. For African American millennials, those are issues such as racism, gun control, income inequality, and education. If we continue to ignore their agenda they will only grow more alienated and withdraw from any political involvement.”
Congressman Elijah Cummings also shared his perspectives on the results of the survey. “The opinions of today’s millennials are telling policymakers at every level that we all must make the education of our next generation our top priority, ” said Cummings. Although public education is primarily a state and local (rather than a federal) responsibility, the President and Congress have an important role in funding the public education of economically disadvantaged students (Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and students with disabilities (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).”
When it comes to turning survey feedback into action, Cummings says, “We need local and state legislators who will fight for more education funding; school leaders who will craft policies to support all students regardless of socioeconomic status or background; teachers who will dedicate themselves to attacking the achievement gap; and federal lawmakers who will give our children’s education more than rhetoric. Our children’s future should not be subjected to a popularity contest. They deserve the best education possible—and this election is the perfect time to make that a reality.”