July 28, 2023
Bill Shapard

'A Ruinous Miseducation of Gen Z' Found Nationwide, Found in Oklahoma as well

A recent New York Post opinion article's analysis of a North Dakota State University survey of college students at 131 colleges and universities nationwide found some startling results. The study found that Gen Z college students were pessimistic about life in America with nearly 60 percent saying it has gotten worse or stayed the same over the last 50 years, meaning only 41 percent correctly understood that, overall, it's actually gotten better over the last five decades.

In SoonerPoll's most recent Quarterly survey of likely voters in Oklahoma, we found that, overall, 61.6 percent say that they are better off than their parents and another 20.2 percent said 'about the same.' These two combined results mean that 81.8 percent of likely voting Oklahomans see the drastic improvements over the last 50 years because, quite frankly, they are living it.


But when we went back to the crosstabs of our poll and looked at the breakdown of the results by age, we found eerily similar results to the North Dakota study.

Among those age 18-24 in the SoonerPoll survey, 45.3 percent said they were worse off than their parents and another 22.1 percent said they were about the same, meaning a combined 67.4 percent which compares to the nearly 60 percent found in the North Dakota study. In our first post of these results, we did not provide an in-depth reporting of these numbers because those 18-24 only make up 6.3 percent of sample. But, given the results of the rather large sample size of the North Dakota study, we decided it was worth a comparison.

It should be noted that both studies do not share the same question working and both studies had different populations of interest; North Dakota's was general population college students and ours is only likely voters, but similiar results are worthy of at least asking if there is something bigger going on here.

Why are Gen Zers not seeing the substantial increases in quality of life in America? Is such a large percentage not seeing it or not living it? Has our educational system miseducated young Americans in order to fulfill a political agenda as the New York Post piece suggests?

One of the more revealing parts of our survey was the lower percentage of highly educated poll participants who said they were better off than their parents, which is confounding since one might assume that those with higher degrees are obtaining a higher level of quality of life than their parents with their educational achievement.

But we left the door open to interpretation with further surveying and analysis since this was the first time SoonerPoll has asked these questions.

There is no doubt that looking at these two studies and their results is intriguing. Perhaps this is a micro-trend of change occurring in America today that needs more study and attention, which fellow pollster Mark Penn outlines in his 2007 book, 'Microtrends: the small forces behind tomorrow's big changes.'

If it is, given the seriousness of the subject matter, then we all need to be paying closer attention.

PHOTO: Aerial photo of Oklahoma City dated 1930.

Bill Shapard
About the Author

Bill Shapard

Bill is the founder of SoonerPoll.com and ShapardResearch, a full service market research firm based in Oklahoma City. Bill began his career in polling after working on major campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats in Oklahoma from 1996 until founding SoonerPoll in 2004.