Search #murica on Instagram and you’ll get an eclectic mix of overtly patriotic content and photos parodying some less flattering perceptions of the United States. So an image of fingernails painted in red, white, and blue may exist right on top of a snarky note about a gas station where you can buy cigarettes, beer and fireworks all at once.
The contradictory way young people use this hashtag offers insight into the way millennials, a term typically used to describe people born in the 1980s, 90s, and early 2000s, think about America, according to new research conducted by MTV.
Of the 2,000 young people (ages 16-24) that MTV reached out to, 86% said they feel “proud to be American," a fact that the "Millenials & #Merica" study notes contradicts Pew's "Millennials in Adulthood" study earlier this year, which reported self-proclaimed patriotism to be at 49%. At the same time, MTV found that millennials are conscious of and concerned about the country's problems.
This dichotomy can in part be attributed to the availability of differing perspectives in the media and online, Vice President of MTV Insights Alison Hillhouse told TIME.
For older generations, "any information was filtered through the nightly news, filtered through newspapers," she said. "Millennials are so much more exposed to how other people think about the country on a daily basis."
Nearly 90% of millennials ascribed equality and fairness as values they considered to be "American." However, 80% said that sometimes the government acts in a way that makes it difficult to feel patriotic, and more than 50% said that the country has let them down personally.
Hillhouse said that the research, which collected data through focus groups, conversation, and other online methods, will help guide MTV programming as well as many of the company's social initiatives.
This is based on a press release with key findings; the full study has not been released by MTV.