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New Gallup Poll Finds That Gen Z is a Generation of Optimists

A group of Gen Z 20-somethings optimistically smiling and laughing outdoors

A new nationwide poll surveyed thousands of Generation Z voices and yielded some surprising results.

The web survey poll, developed by Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation, was conducted in spring 2023 from a sample of 3,114 subjects across fifty states and the District of Columbia. 

Based on questions related to health, schooling, and personal fulfillment, results found that 76% of Gen Z are optimistic about the future and 82% believe they’ll achieve their goals. 

The study defined Gen Z as those born from 1997 to 2011, a generation that encompasses 12-year-olds through adults approaching their thirties. Here are some of the most significant findings from the poll — 

Young people with mentors poll higher for optimism. 

The chart titled "Mentorship and Gen Z Optimism" shows that 51% of respondents strongly believe they have a bright future and 49% are confident they'll achieve their goals. The context suggests the influence of mentorship, with a note mentioning support from an adult or someone encouraging their dreams.
Courtesy of Gallup

The study showed that an overwhelming majority of Gen Z-ers are optimistic about the future, especially ones who had a role model in their life encouraging them to chase their ambitions. 

Out of those surveyed, 32% of Gen Z said they had an adult actively supporting them in their lives. The poll showed that individuals with a mentor were more than twice as likely as their peers to believe they had a bright future ahead of them

School-age teenagers also said that they currently felt supported in the classroom. 71% said that someone praised them for doing a good job in the last seven days and 76% of Gen Z-ers reported having a best friend at school. 

Gen Z has ambition — despite feeling unprepared. 

The chart titled "What Gen Z Would Like to Do in the Future" displays future aspirations of Gen Z. Top choices are working at a paid job (48%), traveling or pursuing interests (44%), and getting a graduate degree (34%). Additionally, a pie chart indicates 62% of Gen Z students want to pursue a postsecondary degree, with a note stating 83% find a college degree important. It's also mentioned that Gen Z girls (70%) are more inclined towards postsecondary education than boys (57%).
Courtesy of Gallup

The Gallup poll also revealed that young Gen Z-ers are striving for a higher education. 

In fact, 62% of middle school and high school students expressed the desire to pursue a collegiate or postsecondary degree. 

Although the generation has high reports of ambition and optimism, only 44% reported that they felt prepared for their future. 

Fortunately, the study also expressed that “feelings of being prepared for the future” trended upwards again for college-age Gen Z members. 

Young Black Americans trend higher for optimism than their peers. 

The image shows Black Gen Z members are more optimistic, with 44% seeing a bright future and 40% expecting a good job, compared to lower percentages for Hispanic and White Gen Z members.
Courtesy of Gallup

Overall, Gen Z individuals that identified as Black reported high numbers of optimism. 

As illustrated in the poll, 44% of Black Gen Z-ers strongly agreed that they had a great future ahead of them. This statistic is in comparison to 30% of Hispanic and 31% of White Gen Z members who said the same. 

Furthermore, 41% Black Gen Z members said that they want to start their own business one day and 40% strongly agreed with the statement: “I know I will get a good job in the future.”

Despite overt positivity, many Gen Z-ers struggle with mental health. 

The chart shows "Generational Differences in Overall Mental and Emotional Wellbeing." Different generations rate their mental health as Excellent, Good, Only fair, or Poor. Gen Z has 20% Excellent and 10% Poor, Millennials have 29% Excellent and 9% Poor, Gen X has 31% Excellent and 3% Poor, Baby Boomers have 39% Excellent and 2% Poor, and Silent Generation has 33% Excellent and 4% Poor. The data is from a Gallup Panel in February 2023.
Courtesy of Gallup

The study also reported that Gen Z struggles more with mental health than millennials did when they were polled at the same age a decade prior.  

In 2013, 52% of millennials aged 18-26 years old rated their mental health as “excellent.” In this new study, only 15% of Gen Z in the same age group reported the same.

The study estimated that low mental wellbeing is due in part to the anxiety that teenagers harbor for gun-related violence. In fact, 40% of Gen Z students reported worrying about gun violence at their school to a moderate or severe degree. 

In spite of Gen Z reporting poor mental health across the board, the study posited that “more than three in five Gen Z members” who rated their mental health as “only fair” still had optimism for the future.

Article Details

September 28, 2023 5:02 PM
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