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The young adults of Generation Next are more optimistic, more tolerant, and more likely Democratic voters than their predecessors, according to a new study. They are also more accepting of same-sex marriage: Forty-seven percent of those ages 18 to 25 favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry, while 30% of those 26 and older favor same-sex marriage. The group's tilt toward the Democratic Party is far different from the previous younger generation, known as Generation X, who grew up during the Reagan administration of the 1980s and was more inclined to support Republicans. ''This portends a significant political impact as they get more engaged,'' said Scott Keeter, a researcher from the Pew Research Center. ''If they carry their party leanings with them, that will make a big difference.'' Forty-eight percent of young adults ages 18 to 25 said they were Democrats or leaned in that direction, while 35% said they were Republican or leaned that way in 2006, according to Pew polling.
While they are generally an optimistic group, large majorities think that casual sex, binge drinking, illegal drug use, and violence are more prevalent among young people today. Asked about their generation, most say getting rich and being famous are top goals. The study found that the young adults: - are less inclined to vote than older generations, although young voter turnout was up significantly in 2004. About 54% of those from 18 to 24 voted in 2004, and 74% of those 25 and over voted, Keeter said. - have more liberal views than other generations on questions of race, homosexuality, and immigration. - read newspapers and follow the news on television and radio less than those in older generations. - keep in close touch with their parents, both for advice and for financial help. - are inclined to use online social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. More than half had used one of these sites. - tend to most admire people they personally know rather than the famous. Entertainers were twice as likely to be named as political leaders. - have often gotten a tattoo, dyed their hair an untraditional color, or had a body piercing. The study, a collaboration of the Pew Research Center and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, is based on Edison-Mitofsky exit polls, past Pew polls, and a Pew survey of 1,501 adults, including 579 people ages 18-25, taken September 6-October 2. The study had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, and five percentage points for the young adults. (Will Lester, AP)