The Washington Post Wonkblog claims that The green movement has a Millennial problem. They base this on a new Pew report on social trends, which finds:
Millennials are also less likely than Gen Xers were in 1999 to identify themselves as “environmentalists.” In 1999, when Gen Xers were under age 35, roughly four-in-ten (39%) embraced this self-description. Today, only about a third of Millennials (32%) say the word “environmentalist” describes them very well. Gen Xers, (42%) Boomers (42%) and Silents (44%) are significantly more likely to embrace this self-description.
It's not the first time this has come up; last year a report from advertising agency DBB said much the same thing, that "when it comes to being environmentally friendly, Millennials are talking the talk, but not walking the walk."
Pew asks a lot of questions, including whether one is a supporter of gay rights. twenty years ago, the question probably wouldn't have come up; then they would have asked if one supported feminism and womens' rights. Now they don't bother asking a question like that, knowing that it is pretty much baked into our culture, that only a small minority objects to it.
Ask the right question!
I suspect that environmentalism as an over-arching concept is the same way; everyone is an environmentalist these days. If they had been asked "Do you care about climate change" or "do you think that more people should ride bikes" the answers would have been far higher than just "do you call yourself an environmentalist." Look at the results from a study two years ago; When asked specific policy questions, millenials gave the greenest answers.
Millenials support wind and renewable power, transit, alternative fuels, and are against offshore oil drilling in much higher proportion than any other cohort. Who cares if they don't call themselves environmentalists.
Millenials are walking the walk instead of driving the drive
Whatever they call themselves, millenials are driving less, biking more, living in smaller spaces, abandoning the suburbs, eating healthier. 21 to 34 year olds remain the core audience of TreeHugger. So I say it again; Don't malign the millenials; the kids are alright.