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Young Americans Have No Faith in the Nation’s Future

Can you blame them?

Young Americans have no faith in the nation’s future, according to a new survey. Democratic polling firm Blueprint asked 943 registered voters aged 18-30 a series of questions about the US political system, and 64% of them believe that America is in decline. Forty-nine percent agreed that elections don’t represent people like them, and 51% said the political system in general “doesn’t work for people like me.”

“Nearly all politicians are corrupt, and make money from their political power” was backed by 65% of respondents, with just 7% disagreeing. There’s not a lot of ambiguity to these numbers.

“I think these statements blow me away, the scale of these numbers with young voters,” Blueprint lead pollster Evan Roth Smith said. “Young voters do not look at our politics and see any good guys. They see a dying empire led by bad people.”

It’s more disastrous news for an already reeling Joe Biden in a presidential election year. But while it is tempting to throw this rising disillusionment entirely at the feet of the current administration, the sad truth is that there are profound basic societal conditions fueling young Americans’ cynicism.

The System Doesn’t Work for Me

Housing affordability has cratered for young adults over the course of recent decades to such a degree that many cannot ever imagine living out the traditional American dream of home ownership.

Young Americans are less healthy than ever before, and obesity rates continue to skyrocket. “In 1976-1980, only 5.5% of young adults had obesity (Body Mass Index of 30 or higher). However, this number more than quintupled by 2017-2018, as nearly 33% of this age group had obesity,” MedPageToday reported in 2023.

New banner Perpective 1Americans are more doped up on legal prescription drugs, too. “An American born in 2019 will spend a larger share of their lifetime taking prescription drugs than being married or receiving an education, according to new research by Jessica Ho, associate professor of sociology and demography at Penn State,” Science Daily reported in October 2023. Ho “found that American males will spend approximately 48% of their lives taking prescription drugs. The number jumped to 60% for females,” the news site relates.

The destruction of social bonds and shared communal values that once tied Americans together also plays a key part. The decline in religion, family, and close-knit neighborhoods in an increasingly urban and heavily developed suburban culture has made for a colder, less connected world.

The Young and the Jaundiced

“Around three-quarters (73%) of US adults under 30 believe people ‘just look out for themselves’ most of the time,” a 2019 Pew Research Center poll found. “A similar share (71%) say most people ‘would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance,’ and six-in-ten say most people ‘can’t be trusted.’ Across all three of these questions, adults under 30 are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to take a pessimistic view of their fellow Americans.”

Given all this and the impression of lofty elitist detachment being reinforced in Washington, DC, on a daily basis, is it any wonder young Americans are miserable?

“[Americans] under the age of 30 are so unhappy, in fact, that they’ve dragged the United States out of the top 20 happiest countries in the world for the first time in the [Gallup World Happiness Report’s] history,” Spectrum News reported in March of this year.

“Overall, the United States now ranks 23rd. Last year, it held the 15th spot. For those under the age of 30, the United States is the 62nd happiest place on earth,” the news site writes. “The report, which ranks countries by age group for the first time, shows the US decline is at least partly attributable to Americans under age 30 feeling worse about their lives.”

Americans of any age should be able to understand the anguish of their younger fellow citizens. Governing, health, and social outcomes are crumbling in what was once known as the Land of the Free. No matter which party captures the White House in November, it is going to take far more than one election to restore faith in a nation that far too many Americans believe has fully lost its way.

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