When a survey isn’t accurate, it can truly plague us

The World Economic Forum released the findings of a millennial survey Sunday. The survey finds that Millennials are somewhat skeptical of the government and the media, and they would consider relocating for work if it means professional advancement.

More findings: a top goal for Millennials is to make a difference in the world; the world’s greatest problems remain social and economic inequality; and influential figures include Pope Francis, the late Nelson Mandela and Elon Musk.

The survey used responses from Millennials in the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum. That raises a flag.

Of course, surveying people in the Global Shapers Community will result in a high percentage of “change the world” responses. It will also result in adoration for Elon Musk.

Over the last few days – and certainly in the future – the media has used the survey information here to shape articles about Millennials. These pieces, which are pretty broad, influence Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and, well, everyone else in the world.

Most of the time cohort surveys like this don’t include a large variety of people. Yet commentators and influencers will pick and choose highlights and present them to the public. Thus we get ill-informed opinions of people.

The World Economic Survey isn’t a bad thing; it can be used to draw conclusions about high-achieving Millennials, or – more accurately – about what Millennials idealize. I think most Millennials want to help change the world. I think most of them think inequality exists in a variety of forms.

But I don’t know if most of them are skeptical of the government and media. In fact, I argue more Millennials are ignorant to reality, numbing themselves from action. This allows the government to wield more power, and it allows the media to find influence in the attentive. Why is Fox News so popular? Because the market for disgruntled and vocal hard-lined conservatives opened during the Clinton era. Fox News had a focus and stayed tight to it. Only today, with ignorance to reality at an all-time high, can Fox News shape itself as a mainstream voice (while still expertly affiliating itself outside of conservative opinions of the media).

The point is: these surveys don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell us why Millennials haven’t done much work despite wanting to do a lot of work. That’s something we need to address, and quickly.