A recent survey from Pew Research Center looked at how Millennials viewed themselves. Of the participants age 18 – 34, only 30% believed the generational label applied to them. This may be a function of the negative way this age group views their own generation.

The study, which had respondents from all generation groups, asked whether certain personality traits and qualities applied to their generation. Unlike older Americans, Millennials associated far more negative traits with their generation than positive traits. In fact, when asked about specific positive or neutral traits associated with Millennials, the survey reveals:

  • Hard-working – 36%
  • Compassionate – 29%
  • Self-reliant – 27%
  • Responsible – 24%
  • Moral – 17%
  • Willing to sacrifice – 15%
  • Patriotic – 12%.

While over one-third of respondents identified Millennials as being hard-working, this figure pales in comparison to other generations, with 54% of Gen Xers and a resounding 77% of Boomers identified as hard-working. The same can be said of responsibility as a generation trait, with Gen Xers and Boomers coming in at 43% and 66%, respectively.

Of course, it bears mention that people begin taking on more responsibility as they get older, so this could be the reason for the definitive gap between the generations.

Interestingly, the Pew survey showed that only 40% viewed Millennials as environmentally-conscious, despite data from other recent surveys that showed this was a common trait of the generation.

When asked about certain negative traits, Millennials were associated with the following:

  • Cynical – 31%
  • Greedy – 43%
  • Self-absorbed – 59%
  • Wasteful – 49%.

While 24% of Gen Xers (the second most negatively-associated generation) viewed their generation as cynical, a large gap opened between the two generations with regards to greedy (19-point difference), self-absorbed (29-point difference) and wasteful (20-point difference).

In contrast, less than 20% of respondents associated any of these four negative traits with Boomers.

Although only 30% of Millennials felt the generation label was a good fit for them, 79% of Boomers identified with their generation label and 58% of Gen Xers believed the label fits. Part of this disconnect may come from a lack of awareness of the various generation labels.

For instance, 8% of people 18-34 incorrectly considered themselves part of the Greatest Generation, which includes people born prior to 1928. There was also very low awareness of what’s known as the Silent Generation. Of the Pew survey participants, only 15% were even aware this was a generation. When asked about whether they’d heard of the other generations, respondents reported their awareness of other generations as:

  • Baby Boomers – 89%
  • Gen Xers – 71%
  • Millennials – 56%.

The study further notes that the lack of self-identification with the Millennial label may be due to the inability for researchers and marketers to agree on the definitive cutoff for inclusion in the Millennial age bracket. While the study shows a wide disparity in how people of different ages view themselves, it clearly shows that using the term “Millennial” when marketing to Millennials may not be an effective way to grab the attention of the target audience.


MarketingCharts. How Do Millennials And Other Generations See Themselves? September 8, 2015.