My Generation is Not as Woke as You Might Expect

6 December 2023

3.8 MINS

The Institute of Public Affairs’ recent The Future of Australia study, which surveys the values and beliefs of young Australians (aged between 16 and 25), was recently released — and it has returned some surprising results.

Given the stereotype of Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2012) as woke snowflakes, my interest was piqued when I heard about a recent study by the right-leaning independent think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which sought to find out what my generation believes when it comes to some basic political questions.

I wondered how a more representative sample of Aussie youth — compared with the ever-noisy activist minority online — would respond to questions about political philosophy and values.

The results were heartening.

Realism or Pessimism?

Before I get to some of the positive results, it is worth noting my generation’s beliefs about their future outlook. A comfortable majority of my generation (64%) believe that we will be worse off than our parents’ generation — and only 17 per cent believe things will get better.

It is difficult to blame us — given the ever-worsening cost of living crisis, the revolutionary left’s pervasive and persistent rhetoric about the wickedness of the West, and a rapidly deteriorating global situation with conflicts raging in Ukraine and the Middle East.

These factors make the hope of a peaceful, prosperous and free future seem increasingly remote for young Australians.

When asked about home ownership, only one per cent of young people said they would be happy to rent forever. However, although almost all young Australians want their own home, one in ten think they will never be able to afford to.

Only the real optimists — less than one in three — think they will be able to afford their own place within the next decade.

Young Australians are Aspirational

Just as almost all of those surveyed want to own their own home, a majority (65%) also aspire to start their own business. Only 16 per cent responded “No” to the question, “Would you like to start your own business one day?”

The results around home and business ownership are encouraging in light of some disturbing surveys that have indicated that nearly fifty per cent of Gen Z have a favourable impression of socialism.

While it does not necessarily contradict the previous findings, the IPA research at least indicates that young people do not understand the implications of the socialism that they supposedly favour — namely, a total lack of private property (home ownership) and entrepreneurialism (business ownership).

The Role of Government

While young people overall (78%) support some level of government intervention in wealth distribution (i.e., higher taxes on wealthier people), I was surprised to read that a majority (56%) prefer “smaller government, fewer services, lower taxes” to “larger government, more services, higher taxes” (44%).

Only four per cent of those surveyed indicated that they believed the federal budget deficit and national debt were not much of a problem — 82 per cent believed that it was a major problem, while a slim majority (52%) said it was a major problem that needs addressing now.

This level of fiscal awareness is perhaps unsurprising in light of former Treasurer Peter Costello’s insightful framing of debt as “intergenerational theft”.

Described in this manner, debt and deficits are understood as a burden that will be largely borne by future generations. When we think of it this way, Gen Z has a vested interest in responsible financial management.

Government Priorities & Censorship

Reflecting the concern in the wider community, young Aussies see the top five priorities for government as 1. lowering the cost of living (42%), 2. housing or rental affordability (18%), 3. improving mental health (9%), 4. reducing emissions (9%), and 5. access to a job/job creation (6%).

It struck me that, for the most part, these priorities relate to the general good governance of our nation — indicating that young men and women are not as obsessed with woke culture warring as we may have been led to believe. While is also true that my generation is not very “Christian”, traditional or politically conservative, there is also a sense that we just want to get on with our lives.

We are also wary of the radical elements within the LGBTQ movement (especially when it resorts to imposing its views on other Australians) and censorship. More than sixty per cent of those ages sixteen to twenty-five agreed with the view that some LGBTQ activists have gone too far and are now imposing their views on other Australians.

Only 17 per cent of young people disagreed with the assertion that “more people today are overly sensitive and likely to take offence at ideas they disagree with”. However, a higher percentage (36%) agreed that speech that someone claims has hurt their feelings “should be censored”.

Feminism in the Workplace

Not all of the responses were quite as positive — especially concerning feminism. One question asked whether young people agreed that “women today are sometimes given preferential treatment over men when going for a job, pay rise or promotion”.

More respondents thought preferential treatment occurs today (45%) than denied it (38%). However, fifteen per cent of young people favoured such “positive discrimination” in the workplace.

The study analysis noted that feminism “is a fundamental source of disagreement between young men and women. Men think that feminism has gone too far and preferential treatment for women is not right. Women do not think they receive preferential treatment or if they do, they think it is right.”

Concluding Thoughts

Most young people are not the rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth activists we all know and love from our experiences on Twitter (X) and TikTok.

While taken from a relatively small (848-person) sample size, The Future of Australia study offers some fascinating insights into the political persuasions of my generation.

We are not nearly as radical as some would like to imagine; we are aspirational when it comes to business or home ownership, and we see the role of government as primarily providing good, stable governance, rather than advocating for woke cultural issues or imposing aggressive agendas.

Perhaps there is still hope.


Photo by Ivan Samkov.

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  1. Ian Moncrieff 6 December 2023 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Thanks Cody – heartening and hopeful.

  2. Warwick Marsh 8 December 2023 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Really great and infomative article. Congratulations Cody!!!

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