Hey, there’s another reason to shake our collective heads at everyone’s favorite generational punching bag. A recently-published YouGov poll that surveyed 8,215 adults online found that a only two-thirds of young millennials, aged 18-24, are totally sure the Earth is round.
Look, I love shitting on millennials to compensate for my fear of growing old and irrelevant as much as the next person. And this poll is pretty damn embarrassing for the youngs. But let’s slow down and talk about what it’s actually telling us.
Actually, let’s first pause to note the flat Earth theory is bullshit, despite what you, along with Kyrie Irving, may have learned on Instagram.
First of all, the poll doesn’t tell us a third of millennials believe the Earth is flat (sorry, Unilad). Only four percent actually think the Earth is as flat as a piece of avocado toast, a low percentage right in line with other age groups, not a “disturbing” percentage. Nine percent have doubts the world is round, which is higher than other groups but not vastly bigger than the six percent of 35-44 year olds who do, or the five percent of overall respondents. Another 16 percent listed their views as “Other/Not Sure.”
Now, it’s possible the explosion of flat Earth content on Reddit, Twitter and Instagram could mean more young millennials are exposed to the debunked theory, accounting for the relatively high number who didn’t vehemently affirm their belief in a round Earth. But there may be another explanation that’s also very much tied to social media.
Earther’s social media editor and resident millennial expert Emily explained to my crusty old self on Slack that it’s possible “many like to do things solely ironically bc everything is bad and nothing has meaning. being a young flat earther is a very edgelord thing.”
Or maybe they’re just sick of being asked dumb survey questions.
The 16 percent of young millennials who checked the other/unsure box could have done so for any number of reasons, including that they correctly think the Earth is an oblate spheroid, or an irregularly shaped ellipsoid.
“If survey respondents had instead been asked to select only between whether they think the world is round or flat, it could be the case that millennials and older generations don’t look that different,” Matt Motta, a political science PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota and millennial round Earther, told Earther.
There isn’t really any strong evidence that millennials are prone to conspiracy theories or pseudoscience at higher rates than the general population. On climate change, for instance, Motta pointed out they’re much more likely to accept the science than older generations (though it’s a different story on GMOs). The big driver on the split on climate change continues to be politics.
Which brings us back to the flat Earth survey: It shows that religion was the biggest predictor of flat Eartherism. Respondents that were very or somewhat religious accounted for 75 percent of all flat Earthers surveyed, though the poll doesn’t list who it counts as flat Earthers. Motta said that’s not surprising given that research shows that people who regularly attend religious services are “less likely to defer to scientific authorities on a wide range of topics. So too, have people who think that the Bible is the literal word of God.”
So, calm down about the flat Earth millennials and go make fun of them for something else.