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JUNE 25, 2018

As Millennials get ready to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest voting generation in the United States, differences in attitudes on foreign policy among age groups gain increasing significance. U.S. millennials feel less threatened by the world, are less interested in military activism, and are more open to trade and globalization than their generational predecessors, according to new survey results from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and authors from George Mason University, The Cato Institute, and Charles Koch Institute.

The report, "The Clash of Generations? Intergenerational Change and American Foreign Policy Views," is based on a wide range of survey data collected by the Chicago Council since 1974. The most recent data comes from the 2017 Chicago Council Survey on American Attitudes towards US Foreign Policy.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Younger Americans today are more liberal than their elders, less likely to identify as Republican, but also more likely not to identify with either party.
  • Each generation since the Silent Generation reports less support than its predecessors for taking an active part in world affairs.
  • On average, younger Americans tend to feel somewhat less threatened by the world than their elders, are less persuaded that maintaining military superiority is an important goal, and are less confident in using military force as a general tool of foreign policy.
  • Older and younger Americans are in relative alignment over most aspects of cooperative internationalism such as the effectiveness of international agreements and the benefits of alliances.
  • Younger Americans are much less likely than older Americans to say that the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world, and instead are more likely to say that every country is unique and that the United States is no greater than other nations.
  • Younger Americans are, on balance, more supportive of free trade agreements, both in theory and practice.

For details on how opinions have changed over time, analyses on different opinions among younger and older Americans, and full statistical and partisan breakdown, download the full report.

Authors are available for comment. Please contact the Council's Media Relations team.


This report is based on the results of the Chicago Council Surveys on American attitudes towards US foreign policy. The 2017 edition of the survey is the latest effort in the series and was made possible by the generous support of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Korea Foundation, and the personal support of Lester Crown and the Crown Family.

About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices and conduct independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council on Global Affairs is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business and governments engage the world. Learn more at and follow @ChicagoCouncil.