< Previous Page
But the survey also showed that each generation has started off adulthood less trusting than the previous one, a trend that would likely have to be reversed for the nation’s overall mistrust to change.
Katherine Vining, a 25-year-old graduate student in San Francisco, says that may be difficult to do in an age when news and information are readily accessible at any hour.
"The more information you have, the more opportunity there is to be disappointed and disillusioned by the people and institutions in the world that are repeatedly acting unethically and taking advantage of individuals and communities," says Vining, who’s studying sustainable management at the Presidio Graduate School.
But, she adds, being more connected also makes it easier to find others "who are equally disheartened with the status quo." And with that, she and others say, comes empowerment to do something about it.
That’s what some experts find so interesting about this generation. They may be disillusioned by the powers that be. Yet so far, they’ve continued to vote in larger percentages than previous young generations, even after some concede that they’ve failed to see the "change" that President Barack Obama first promised in 2008.
And despite their skepticism, they also continue to be a largely optimistic lot.
A Pew Research Center survey done in 2012 found that 73 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds were optimistic that they would eventually achieve their life goals, or had already achieved them.
Jon Rogowski, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, has worried that, given these findings about trust, some young people will tire and "turn inwards" and away from civic engagement. He’s particularly concerned about black youth.
A recent survey by the University of Chicago’s Black Youth Project, to which Rogowski contributes, found that nearly 46 percent of black youth believe everyone has an equal chance to succeed in the United States, compared with 51 percent of white youth and about 58 percent of Hispanic youth.
Nwachukwu, the 16-year-old Chicagoan, who is African-American, understands that concern, yet still feels hopeful.
"Maybe it’s my faith in other kids my age to step up to the challenge and change our system," says Nwachukwu, who traveled this summer to the Middle East to meet young people there with the nonprofit Qatar Foundation International. She says it was the type of experience that helps bolster her faith in people and her future.
Gary Rudman, a California consultant who tracks youth trends, also suspects that this generation’s personal optimism comes from their upbringing — and the "you do anything" mantra.
"Perhaps we have set them up for ultimate failure, or maybe they will make the situation work for them," Rudman says. "Only time will tell."
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.