Northeastern University Survey: ‘Generation Z’ Thinks the U.S. Is on the ‘Wrong Track’

They also always break up with their significant others in person, are worried about getting jobs, and think they'll be better off than their parents.

photo by Alex Lau

photo by Alex Lau

The next generation of students getting ready to step into the world of higher education isn’t too worried about climate change, claims they always break up with a significant other in person—not via smartphone texts—and gets their news from online sources like the New York Times, rather than sites like Buzzfeed, according to the results of a national survey conducted by Northeastern University.

On Tuesday, the school’s president, Joseph Aoun, alongside a panel of experts and educators, delivered these survey findings and more during a presentation at the fourth ever “Innovation Imperative Series” event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

The survey results, collected with the help of FTI Consulting, a global business advisory firm, paint a picture of what researchers are calling “Generation Z,” which is defined as “teens between the ages of 16 and 19.” To tap into the minds of this particular demographic, the school rounded up responses from 1,015 participants during the month of October. The survey takers were equally divided into two groups and asked questions either by landline phone, or on the Internet.

The key themes of the poll gauged Generation Z’s views on the future of higher education, civic engagement, public policy, technology, financial literacy, and personal aspirations. “Generation Z exhibits a strong entrepreneurial, independent, and self-sustaining spirit, with a driving motivation to map out their own futures,” according to the school’s recap of the small pool of data. “They are highly progressive when it comes to social policy, with strong support for universal healthcare, relaxed immigration laws, and equal rights for all people—regardless of sexual orientation.”

Some of the more surprising results of the survey included respondents’ claims that they never break up with a significant other over the Internet, or through a text message. With a generation that grew up tethered to electronic devices, it’s hard to imagine that the age group represented by the survey would opt for a face-to-face interaction when deciding to call a relationship quits—but that’s what the numbers reportedly show.

Also surprising were responses that indicated teenagers in that age-range prefer to ask people out on a date in person, rather than rely on dating apps, and to talk and hangout with friends in a social setting, rather than through online media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

The results also showed that 65% of people defined by the Generation Z standards who were surveyed by the school want to go to college, and believe that the benefits outweigh the total costs—something that’s not getting cheaper—but they fear they will be unable to manage student loan debt, or find ways to afford a higher education. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they plan on paying for college through grants and scholarship funds, while only 17% will rely on student loans in an effort to avoid serious debt after graduation.

The majority of survey-takers also said they believe everyone should have the right to become a U.S. citizen, regardless of where they were born, everyone should have the right to marry, and college and healthcare benefits should be free.

The full survey results can be read below:

Generation Z