Millennials on the 4th of July seem to love posting ironic Americana images — barbecues, jean shorts, beer cans being crushed upon heads — hashtagged #merica.
These images and the accompanying #merica meme theme parties are just how millennials say they love America, a new study by MTV reveals.
“They throw these #merica theme party and it’s truly 70 percent earnest. I talked to a lot of sorority girls, not just Brooklyn hipster types, and there’s a lot of we love this country, we make fun, but we love our country,” said Alison Hillhouse, Vice President of MTV Insights. “That’s the millennial sense of humor. I thought #merica was a sarcastic ironic thing, but that’s how they show their very earnest, real pride for America.”
This survey comes at a time when so-called millennial patriotism was being called into question by a contrasting PEW survey. In that report, only 49 percent of millennials said the phrase “a patriotic person” described them well (in contrast, 75 percent of Boomers said they did).
But with the MTV iteration, researchers scrapped the word patriotic and asked if the millennial was “proud to be an American” and 86 percent said yes.
“The PEW guys basically put up this press release that was like millennials aren’t patriotic, all they do is Facebook all day,” she said. “And that’s what people want to hear, so, oh ok.”
The issue, Hillhouse said, was the word patriotic, which to millennials sounds “like a zealous crazy person.”
“The word patriotism is a struggle, but they are very proud to be Americans,” she said.
But #merica, which makes fun of an accented “America,” is readily embraced and rallied behind. Brands joined in:
Even the Legion of Honor got in on #merica.
But so even if #merica is somehow patriotic, do these millennials still believe in the American dream of homeownership and family?
Absolutely, Hillhouse said.
Millennials want to be in cities during their 20s, but as soon as they’re asked to envision the future, they respond with idealized suburban imagery, Hillhouse said. She called it the “Two-Faced American Dream.”
The data: During their 20s, 70 percent of millennials said they wanted to live in a downtown area of a city, and 57 percent said they wanted to rent. Hypothetically, looking into their 40s, 86 percent responded that they wanted to live in the suburbs or country, with 95 percent wanting to own.
“Millennials are surprisingly traditional in many ways. They’ve idealized city life, but they very much see it as temporary,” Hillhouse said. “When you ask them about their future, it’s literally white picket fence in the suburbs.”