Politics

We Asked Young People What Matters To Them In 2019. Here’s What We Found Out.

Our annual youth survey is one of the largest of its kind. Here's a look at the findings.

junkee youth survey

When you think about it, it’s kind of staggering how many Australians — of all ages — feel perfectly comfortable speaking on behalf of young people.

“Experts” are making sweeping generalisations about entire generations all the time. Millennials can’t afford houses because we “eat too many avocados“. Others tell Generation Z they’re not yet old enough to understand, let alone protest, climate change. Young people get stereotyped every which way — too lazy, bad with money, too politically disengaged, too politically engaged, you name it.

By now, we’re so used to these stereotypes that when we actually ask young people what they give a shit about, the answers are surprising. What if we told you that actually, Generation Z isn’t as activist, or as feminist, as the generations that came before? What if we told you that young Australians really are united on climate change, and think it should be our number one priority no matter the cost?

If you want to know what young Australians actually give a shit about, we’ve got the answers right here. For the past nine years, Junkee has partnered with research agency Pollinate to ask more than 25,000 young Australians about what matters most to them right now. Our survey is one of the largest and longest-running youth surveys of its kind, and over the years we’ve learned a whole lot of interesting things about what gets young people up in the morning, and what keeps them up at night.

The results are in, and you can see a taste of the findings below. If you’re a huge nerd, you can find notes on our methodology at the end of this story. But now, without further ado, here’s a look at what young Australians really care about.

Climate Change Is The Number One Concern For Young Australians, And Worries Are Increasing

Unsurprisingly, climate change is the number one concern for young Australians right now, and worries have been rising for a while. When we surveyed young Australians back in December 2013, 57 percent said climate change currently concerned them. In March 2018, that number was 80 percent. This year, it rose to 84 percent.

As for how seriously these young Australians are taking the issue, the answer is clear: pretty fucking seriously. In this year’s survey, we asked respondents to tell us how much they care about a particular issue, with answers ranging from “I really don’t give a shit” to “I really give a shit”. Sixty-nine percent (nice) of respondents told us they really give a shit about sustainability and the environment. A further 26 percent said they give a bit of a shit, which means that 95 percent of young Australians told us they either care a little or a lot about the environment.

Of all the issues included in the give-a-shit meter (including gender equality, social equality, refugee rights, house prices, LGBTIQ issues, the #MeToo movement and more), “sustainability and the environment” topped the lot.

Interestingly, though, only 37 percent said they really give a shit about the Adani coal mine, which is surprising when you consider how many #StopAdani shirts show up at things like the School Strike 4 Climate.

Feminism May Be More Relevant Than Ever

After the climate crisis, the second priority of Australian youth is gender equality, closely followed by social equality. Seventy percent of the young people we surveyed reported that they really give a shit about gender equality, and 66 percent really give a shit about social equality. Meanwhile, 52 percent of respondents said they really give a shit about the #MeToo movement.

And when we’re talking gender equality, young Australians aren’t shying away from the f word. Seventy percent said they identified as a feminist, though 27 percent agreed or slightly agreed that feminism has gone too far.

Mostly, though, it seems that feminism is just as relevant as ever. Fifty percent of female respondents told us they feel they have to hold off on having children in order to not hinder their careers — and we can’t stress this enough, these are Millennial and Gen Z women. And while 48 percent of respondents said the #MeToo movement had improved people’s attitudes and behaviours a little, 33 percent said things haven’t changed much at all. Only one percent think the #MeToo movement has made things a lot better — in other words, there’s still a long way to go.

Don’t Assume You Know Generation Z

So far, we’ve been reporting these results as if they apply to young people as a whole. But 16-35 is a pretty big age bracket, and as it turns out, there are pretty big differences within that bracket. We split the group into Millennials (24-35 year olds) and Generation Z (16-23 year olds), and it turns out there’s some really surprising differences between the generations.

Take passion for social justice, for example. While 61 percent of young people said they were passionate about social justice issues, when you break that number down by generation it turns out that 65 percent of Millennials were passionate about social justice, versus only 53 percent of Gen Z. That’s a pretty big gap, and goes against the stereotype of Generation Z as a passionate, activist generation. A similar generational gap emerged when we took a look at who felt that feminism has gone too far. Nineteen percent of Millennials agreed that feminism has gone too far, compared to 38 percent of Gen Z — a whopping difference, and not necessarily the one you’d expect.

As for why that is, it turns out there’s a gender divide at play. While Gen Z women are just as feminist as ever, Gen Z men are seriously lagging behind (67 percent of Millennial men identified themselves as feminists, compared to 56 percent of Gen Z men). The men of Gen Z were also more likely to think that feminism had gone too far (44 percent of Gen Z men agreed, compared to 32 percent of Gen Z women), though there’s still a significant gap between Gen Z and Millennials on that question (23 percent of Millennial men and 17 percent of Millennial women thought feminism had gone too far). And finally, Gen Z men were far less passionate about social justice than Gen Z women (41 percent of Gen Z men were passionate about social justice, compared to 63 percent of Gen Z women).

Gen Z were also far more optimistic about things like the possibility of having a career and raising a family (75 percent of Gen Z reckon it’s possible, compared to 57 percent of Millennials). Whether that’s just a consequence of Gen Z having less life experience than Millennials, who knows? In any case, let it be a reminder to you: don’t assume you know what Gen Z is thinking. They just might surprise you.

Australia’s Major Political Parties Need To Watch Out

Which brings us to this: a warning to Australia’s major political parties. Both Millennial and Gen Z respondents told us that they are pretty dissatisfied with Australia’s major political parties — only 33 percent of Labor supporters and 34 percent of Liberal supporters told us they were satisfied with their party’s actions and policies. By contrast, 63 percent of Greens supporters told us they were satisfied with the party.

In general, though, 50 percent of young Australians aged 16-35 told us they think Australia’s political parties don’t listen to people their age. Forty-one percent thought that political parties listened to young people “a little”.

It also seems that a lot of the hot button issues for Australia’s major political parties really don’t resonate with young people. Immigration and terrorism, for instance, came second last and last respectively in the list of issues young people said they were currently concerned about — just 36 percent of young Australians are worried about terrorism.

As it turns out, young people today are more worried about data privacy and the economy than they are about immigration and terrorism. And as we said before, their key concern is climate change. If major parties don’t start seriously addressing the issues young people care about, they may get a shock next election.


A note on methodology

A quick note on methodology for all you data nerds out there: our annual youth survey is advertised across our network of youth-focused websites, including Junkee, AWOL and Punkee. The 30 minute online survey was open from February 8 to March 6 this year, and we received 2315 responses from 16 to 35-year-olds. Over the years, we’ve surveyed more than 25,000 young Australians, and we’ve weighted our sample based on gender and age to ensure comparability over time.

As for how that sample compares to the Australian population, it’s pretty representative in terms of age and gender. We did see a slight metro skew (more respondents from cities versus regional and rural Australia), and a higher proportion of Greens voters than the general population, which is worth keeping in mind when you take a look at the results.


Did you enjoy this look at our data? There’s plenty more where this came from — learn more about Junkee’s annual youth survey here.