Editor’s note: This story is part of an intermittent series. The Public Policy Institute of California is conducting small focus groups across the state to discuss the role of government, and KQED was invited to listen in. First names only were used to encourage candid conversation.
By Ana Tintocalis
20-somethings say they support November propositions that will fund education, but still lack confidence in government. (R. Michael Stuckey: Comstock Images)
A group of Millennials — young people aged 18 to 29 — are gathered around a conference table in a nondescript office building in Silicon Valley.
In just a few minutes, they will be answering some pointed political questions as part of a researched-based focus group organized by the Public Policy Institute of California — a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. The PPIC conducts public opinion polling, but they’re also holding smaller conversations to gauge more detailed opinions from Californians this election year.
On this night participants come from all walks of life — from a teenage grocery store clerk to an engineer at Cisco. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, and others don’t belong to any party.
But as a group, they are not excited about how the U.S. is doing. “Uneasy,” one person said. “Worried and scared,” was the take of somebody else.
‘Our taxes are going to jails for the inmates to live somewhat well versus [going to] education. When you turn around and graduate, you don’t have a job to go to.’
These 20-somethings are anxious about their prospects for the future and are especially worried about finding a good job in a still-struggling economy.
It’s a far cry from four years ago, when the promise of hope and change bolstered the expectations of young people across the country.
“Government is unproductive. They’re large, they’re bulky, and it’s top heavy. And it shouldn’t be that way,” said Yukata, a young Republican who received his master’s degree at U.C. Davis. “When you look at government, you think of greed. That’s not how our founders wanted the government to be. They wanted our government to be small.”
Some of the others at the table nod in agreement. While they don’t see eye-to-eye on many social issues, one thing is clear: They feel lawmakers have turned their backs on providing an affordable, quality higher education in the Golden State.
Ryan, a San Jose State kinesiology major, says the classes he needs have been slashed, yet his tuition continues to increase.
“I could have graduated in four years, but every semester it was a struggle,” Ryan said. “I’d get my registration date, and there’d be [no classes available]. It’s the most frustrating thing. … You have good grades; you’ve been at the school for four years … and tuition just keeps getting more and more expensive. It just doesn’t make sense.” Continue reading