My son and his middle school friends chatted about video games as they marched on Saturday, wending through the crowd, carrying a sign they’d made for their school walk-out the previous week.
The March for Our Lives attracted between two and three thousand people in our town, Northampton, Mass., with a population of less than 30,000 residents. High school activists did the organizing and almost all the speaking. Everybody else (parents, little kids, grandparents, college students, activists, lots and lots of local public school teachers, a surprising number of well-behaved dogs) showed up with signs and support. The police chief directed traffic at the starting point and then walked with the crowd, chatting with kids along the way. The superintendent of schools marched with an orange band tied around his arm.
The good turnout and collegial atmosphere weren’t too surprising in our liberal town—we’re getting used to showing up on the steps of city hall to register our disapproval and unite in calls for change. But there’s still something amazing about thousands of progressive adults—who have been fighting back, complaining, despairing for the past year and a half—stopping to pay attention to our local students as they grow before our eyes into functional, responsible, effective changemakers.
The Pew Research Center released a report called “The Generation Gap in American Politics” March 1 showing how dramatically different Millennials’ positions are from their parents and grandparents. Pew considers anyone born between 1981 and 1996 to belong to the Millennial generation, so they’re all already comfortably of voting age, and we can assume the Post-Millennials (the oldest of whom are 21 right now) are at least as liberal as their predecessors.
Here are some of the ideological differences, according to Pew:
- 44 percent of Boomers approve of President Trump’s job during his first year in office, compared with only 27 percent of Millennials.
- 52 percent of Millennials say racial discrimination is the main reason many black people can’t get ahead these days, compared with 36 percent of Boomers.
- 79 percent of Millennials say immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents, compared with 56 percent of Boomers.
- 67 percent of Millennials say it’s the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage, compared with 57 percent of Boomers.
- 62 percent of Millennials say abortion should be legal in all/most cases, compared with 53 percent of Boomers.
And on the issue of guns, 51 percent of Boomers say it’s more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns than to control gun ownership, compared with 43 percent of Millennials. However, those numbers come from Pew’s polling almost a full year ago. In a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted just after the Parkland shooting in February, 68 percent of registered voters said gun control laws should be stricter. (That included 53 percent of Republicans.) Although the respondents weren’t broken out by age groups, the trend is clearly toward more support for gun control—those in favor of stricter laws was at just 58 percent after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016.
When the teenagers on the steps of the Northampton City Hall asked the crowd to lie or kneel to symbolize the deaths of the victims of school shootings, grey-haired protestors throughout the downtown listened and dutifully followed instructions. And that says a lot.