Generational strife is nothing new, and the latest incarnation has taken over social media platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and even the pages of The New York Times, in a quick two-word reply: “OK, Boomer.” Millennials (currently ages 23 to 38) and their younger cohort Gen Z (currently ages 18 to 22) use the phrase in response to blanket generational criticism from baby boomers (currently ages 55 to 73).
Gen Z and millennials now make up more than one-third of the American population (36%), while baby boomers make up just under one-third (30%). Despite their larger share of the population, millennials make up just 6% of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 116th Congress, while baby boomers make up 54%.
Millennials and Gen Z will also likely comprise a smaller share of voters in 2020 than baby boomers. Just 55% of the younger Americans say they are absolutely certain they will vote in 2020, compared to 87% of baby boomers who say the same. Millennials and Gen Zers are also less confident that their peers will turn out to vote (14% say all of their friends will vote, and 43% say most of them) than baby boomers (32% say all of their friends will vote, and 53% say most of them).
The dismissiveness of “OK, Boomer” masks some major attitudinal divisions between the youngest generations and Boomers. According to data from PRRI’s 2019 American Values Survey, Gen Z and millennials are less optimistic about the direction of the country (70% say it is headed in the wrong direction vs. 60% for baby boomers), and are more likely to hold unfavorable views of President Donald Trump (72% vs. 60% for Boomers). Just over one- quarter (28%) of Gen Zers and millennials hold favorable views of Trump, compared to 40% of Boomers.
These attitudes extend to support for progressive policy proposals. Nearly eight in ten (79%) Gen Zers and millennials support making the use of marijuana legal, including a 45% plurality who strongly favor the policy change. Despite their coming of age during the counterculture years of the ‘60s and ‘70s, boomers are significantly less likely to favor marijuana legalization (60%), and just 28% strongly favor legalization.
This pattern is similar for making college tuition-free at public colleges and universities, with 79% of Gen Zers and millennials supporting the policy, compared to 61% of boomers. Again, a 44% plurality of the younger Americans strongly favor the policy, compared to 22% of boomers who say the same.
Gen Z and millennials are slightly less likely to favor creating a “Medicare for All” plan (72% favor or strongly favor the policy), but are still significantly more likely than boomers to favor “Medicare for All” (59%).