Self-reliant, entrepreneurial risk-takers aspiring to be millionaires by the age of 35. Meet the Millennial Generation, identified for the first time today as the people who will shape British society in the 21st century. The children of the Baby Boomers and the less uptight successors to Generation X, the latest generation holds values that suggest the legacies of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair will survive well into the new millennium. The Millennial Generation seem to be self-confident and self-dependent.
They aim high and do not think themselves limited by background. These qualities suggest that the future will feel the impact quite soon and that the new millenium might well be in safe hands. Substantially different from either of their preceding social groupings, members of the Millennial Generation are products of an era in which there has been no challenge to the dominance of the market economy. As a result, they are risk-takers. Rejecting the outmoded notions of a job for life, almost half - male and female — expressed a desire to own their own business.
Traditionally safe establishment jobs were similarly dismissed: just 1 per cent aspired to work in the Civil Service. Their post-Thatcher-credentials were underlined by their attitude to government. Sixty-five per cent said it was their responsibility rather than that of the government to find somewhere to live. An even larger proportion (87 per cent) said it was down to the individual to find him or herself a job. There was also little support for the involvement of the authorities in other aspects of life.
Asked what they believed should be outlawed, only ecstasy — curious for such a drug-liberal generation — and fox hunting drew substantial majorities in favour of a ban. Beef on the bone, explicit sex and violence on television, and even handgun ownership were deemed largely acceptable. In only two areas did the 16- to 21-year-olds believe that the government should take a leading role. A little over half said it should provide an adequate pension and pay for university education, leaving substantial minorities who supported private provision.
Perhaps unsurprising, then, that New Labour is by far the generation's political party of choice. More than 60 per cent said they would vote for Tony Blair if there were a general election tomorrow. The Tories, despite repeated attempts to harness the youth vote, failed to attract even 20 per cent. But that was where the good news stopped for Mr Blair and the mainstream political process. A quarter of the young people were either undecided (13 per cent) or said they would not vote at all (12 per cent).
Regardless of their political affiliations, there was an overwhelming lack of faith in party politics: more than 70 per cent said the way they voted would make little difference to their life. The presenters of the Millennial Generation are libertarian, they are tolerant and they are ambitious. This is very encouraging for Britain because it suggests that they are already equipped with the values which will be important next century. It would be very frightening for young people to hold these attitudes. But it appears a glib caricature of young people based on very outdated stereotypes.