What Motivates US Millennial Activists?

The Applied Research Center compared the attitudes of participants in Occupy Wall Street, ages 18 to 30, and its offshoots with participants in community-based progressive groups.[i] Staff led nine focus groups in five cities in 2012. In the Occupy group, 40% were people of color, while 70% of the progressive group was people of color. Both groups were most motivated by their personal and/or family struggles, then by their community. Both groups faulted the corrupt legislative system and individualism as a block to social change, but the Occupy group was more critical of capitalism and more skeptical about getting involved in electoral politics. The most popular social justice issues were racial justice, economic justice, and gender issues tied with prisons and crime. The main barriers to change are the public’s ignorance of history and political analysis and capitalism’s prioritization of individualism. What they most value in an ideal society is community and cooperation.


[i] Dominique Apollon, “Millennials, Activism and Race,” Applied Research Center, May 2012.


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