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As I’ve written before, Millennials trust institutions—religious or otherwise—less than any other generation.
New data released by the Pew Research Center last week shows that Millennial trust in religious institutions and the national news media (an institution of sorts itself) has dropped dramatically over the last five years.
It makes sense to me that Millennial trust in religious institutions would drop over the last five years. Religious institutions have lost a number of cultural battles over this span of time, and it has become less and less “cool” to be a part of a religious institution. People simply do not think religious institutions have positive effects as much as they once did.
Perhaps the biggest battle over the last five years has revolved around American sexual ethics versus the sexual ethics of many conservative religious institutions, Christian or otherwise. The legalization of same-sex marriage didn’t cause the conflict between secular and religious sexual ethics—it was the trophy showing secular sexual ethics won the day. It was the natural outgrowth of an American culture which has gradually slipped away from any idea that its people answer to anything or anyone beyond their own bodies.
So, all of that to say: religious institutions losing the trust of Millennials is no surprise.
I am interested in what has caused Millennials to trust the media less since 2010. I’m not sure if it’s Brian Williams, click-bait headlines, or something else entirely. Perhaps Millennials are simply getting older and are less naïve about the media than they were before, because Millennials don’t trust the media less than their parents—they used to trust the media much more than their parents. So, Millennial trust of the media is becoming more “normal” whereas it was above average before.
What is interesting is that, over the same period of time, Millennial trust in other institutions—banks, large corporations, and otherwise, has increased (though trust remains relatively low among these groups).
While, as the graph shows, Millennial trust does still remain low regarding banks and large corporations, the picture has improved. Why? Simple, I think: the economy is improving. It makes sense that, as Millennials get older and more established financially (the older ones at least) they would have a greater trust of financial institutions and large corporations.
Generally speaking, you’re going to have a bit more trust of “the man” as you age and leave your ideological, “down-with-the-man” views behind in college. As the economy improves, and as Millennials enter the real world and, perhaps, even find jobs at large corporations or banks, their trust of them increases. I suspect that, if this same survey were conducted five years from now, and we experienced another economic crisis in the meantime, Millennial trust of these institutions would drop yet again.
Click here to read more from Pew about Millennial trust levels.
What do you think? What are the implications of Millennials change in trust?