New survey shows California Millennials ready to shape California’s future


SACRAMENTO, CA, May 8, 2012 -- California's millennials like living in California, trust its government and education system, and are highly optimistic about its future, according to a survey released today by California Forward (CA Fwd).

Download a PDF copy of the survey here.

The survey examined the perspectives and attitudes of Californians on public policy matters. The results from the millennials, defined in this survey as between 18 and 29 years old, offered a glimpse into the Golden State's future that is diverse and ambitious. Young Latinos make up  44 percent of survey respondents; 34 percent are Caucasian, 13 percent Asian Pacific Islander, 6 percent African American, and 4 percent other.  

While there are some distinctions among the cultural backgrounds, overall, the survey found that young Californians are the best educated generation in the state’s history, impressively career-oriented and strikingly optimistic about the future.  In addition, they place a higher level of trust than older generations in both California’s government and its education system to help them achieve their goals, despite the state’s deteriorating economy.

“California’s millennials are a vibrant, educated, socially-engaged and multicultural generation that considers California their ‘beloved home’ and full of opportunity,” said Jim Mayer, CA Fwd executive director. “Their optimism and trust in state government underscores the imperative of ensuring that public services can deliver.  Without a focus on results, this confidence will be wasted.”

Overall, the survey indicates 58 percent of young Californians are registered to vote, but only 39 percent of those who registered said they “always” vote, compared to 60 percent of 30-49 year olds and 76 percent of those 65 and up. 

According to Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute for Politics at the University of Southern California, these findings indicate it might be time for a radical rethinking in how we educate millennials about governance and the importance of civic participation.

"While millennials are clearly informed and highly vocal about the political and economic realities they face, they tend to see political involvement as something best accomplished through community and volunteer activity, rather than voting. The next challenge will be to channel their enthusiasm and energy into the more traditional aspects of the political process, as well," said Schnur. "This generation is much less rigidly partisan than older Californians, which may mean a dramatically different political climate in California in the years to come if they do become more involved."


While it is not surprising that Latinos make up the largest single ethnic group of millennials, the survey underscores that young Latinos are considerably more “aspirational” and optimistic about the state and its future than either Caucasian millennials or older Californians. In fact, 73 percent of Latino millennials surveyed trust state government to make good decisions at least some of the time compared to 61 percent of Caucasians.

“The high level of trust that young Latinos have in California’s government presents a golden opportunity for those young people to help shape the state’s future,” said Arturo Vargas, a member of CA Fwd’s Leadership Council and executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund. “California’s political leadership should not squander this opportunity, and should actively and honestly engage with young Latinos.”

In addition, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Latino millennials are native-born Californians. They are increasingly better educated and highly driven, and 73 percent give high marks to the state’s educational system, compared to 53 percent of Caucasians. Only 49 percent of older Californians (baby boomers) believe California has excellent schools and universities, according to the survey.

Mike Madrid manages Grassroots Lab, a California public affairs firm, and is a nationally recognized expert on Latino voting trends. He believes the survey indicates that today's young California Latinos will increasingly be viewing politics and public policy through a different lens than their parents and grandparents. He thinks they will be less focused on the immigrant experience and more focused on middle class issues.

"What we will begin to see over the next decade and beyond is the emergence of Latino values into the mainstream issues like higher education, opening up a business and home ownership, "said Madrid. "These traditional middle class issues have always determined public policy and elections in California." 

The survey was conducted for CA Fwd by Viewpoint Learning, which conducts surveys on business and public policy issues in California. The full survey's top line results can be viewed at


CA Fwd is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to improving the performance of government in California. It believes that increased emphasis on accountability and transparency will create government that Californians deserve and expect.

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