WASHINGTON — There are plenty of reasons for Sebastian Garcia to feel downbeat about the future.
After his family immigrated from Mexico, he was raised on a farm in northwest Texas, where he says there aren’t many racial slurs he hasn’t heard. When the now-24-year-old graduated from college, he decided to become an educator. But the first few years of his teaching career have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced his public school system to close for months.
Garcia and his peers, meanwhile, have had to navigate the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, weighed down by student loans that have made affordable housing and access to healthcare out of reach.
Despite the challenges of what Garcia describes as the endless pursuit of the American Dream, he says he’s confident that better things are ahead. He’s part of a broader trend among millennials and Generation Z Americans who say they are more likely to be optimistic about the future and their ability to create change than their older counterparts, according to a new poll from MTV and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The poll measured attitudes among Gen Z Americans ages 13 through 24, as well as 25- to 40-year-old millennials and 41- to 56-year-old Gen X Americans.
“I know that as long as there are people willing to work hard and push through the hard times, you can persevere,” Garcia said. “Me and my family are proven facts of that.”
The poll finds 66 percent of Gen Z and 63 percent of millennial Americans think their generation is motivated to make positive change, compared with 56 percent of Gen X Americans. Those generations are also more likely than Generation X to feel they can impact what the government does, with 44 percent of Gen Z and 42 percent of millennials saying they can at least a moderate amount, compared with 31 percent of Gen X.
For Jonathan Belden, 29, optimism about the future and potential for positive change is necessary as a father of five.
“Despite the challenges, in many regards, the U.S. is the only place where we have as much of an opportunity without hindrance,” the New Mexico resident said. “And I want my kids to grow up in a place where they can succeed at whatever they do.”